Yamilet Peña dreams of reaching the podium at Rio 2016
After winning a silver medal in the vault at this year’s Pan-American Games, Dominican gymnast Yamilet Peña is hoping her Olympic Solidarity scholarship will help her achieve her dream of reaching the podium at Rio 2016.
How old were you when you started gymnastics?
I started gymnastics at the age of six. My mother had initially put me in art classes, but it wasn’t for me. I remember telling her that I was falling asleep in the lessons, so she decided to take me to watch some sports instead so I could decide what I wanted to do. Straightaway, I chose gymnastics. What I like about the sport is that every day is a fight to improve in each of the elements that I do. Every day I feel more prepared for life outside sport, knowing that no matter how difficult the obstacles are that I have to face, I am able to overcome them.
When did you realise that you had the talent to compete at the elite level?
I gave my first interview when I was eight years old and I said that I was going to be an Olympic athlete. Right from the start, I always visualised myself improving and getting better. I watched the more difficult elements that other gymnasts were doing and wanted to do them too.
Do you have any memories of watching the Olympic Games when you were younger?
Of course, I can remember every detail of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. My former coach, Francisco Susana, made me watch the competitions very closely, so I could see the skills needed in every detail of every jump and realise that I was capable of doing the same.
What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest sporting achievement so far is competing at the Olympic Games in 2012. It’s the highest level in sport, which every athlete wants to reach, and I managed to achieve it. It was even more special to finish in the top eight in the vault. Being in the Olympic Games was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. I could really appreciate just how difficult it is to reach this level and felt grateful to be there to experience it.
What are your targets for the future?
My main goal is to be back in the Olympic Games [in Rio in 2016]. It would be a second opportunity to compete at the highest level and show what I can do. I’m thinking positively – I want to be in the Olympic Games again and fulfil my dream of being on the podium.
How is your Olympic Solidarity Scholarship helping you to achieve that dream?
In particular, in this last year it has been a great help to pay for my training overseas so that I’m better prepared – both physically and mentally – for the challenges ahead of me. It’s great for me – and any other athletes who receive it – to get this support because there are many times when we can’t afford our training costs. This past year has been the biggest help that I have received. If it had not been for this support, I would not have been able to attend the overseas training camps with coaches who are better prepared to train me. I’m so happy and grateful to have this support.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my free time, I love going shopping or spending time with my family and friends. I am also a big fan of food!