2020 was a difficult year for athletes. The suspension of competitions and the complications to complete the training sessions affected some, but not María José Mailliard.
The Chilean, who is already in the history of canoeing, managed to add two transcendental milestones in her career this past 2020: winning the first gold medal in a world event for this sport in the World Championship held in Hungary and classifying the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The outstanding national team athlete tells us more about her sport, her link with canoeing and her possible participation in Santiago 2023.
For 12 years I was a swimmer, a national open water national team athlete. At the end of 2010, I had to decide whether to start university or not, and swimming no longer entertained me like it used to. Once at the High Performance Center (CAR) I mentioned my possible retirement from the sport to Reinaldo Rill, national canoe coach at the time, and he told me not to do it, that he was going to invite me to the lagoon to see if I liked canoeing. At first it was too difficult, but I really liked it. I have always liked things outdoors and especially if they are in the water.
Canoeing is a very complete sport, it is not only getting on a boat and rowing, but it is equilibrium, mentality, strength and balance. I personally train around 6-7 hours a day, which consists of two water sessions per day and one gym session. I also do Yoga.
In Chile canoeing is developed much more in the south. Further north, I think I'm the only one practicing. Now, in order to promote the start and training of athletes, they are making "seedbeds" or canoeing schools, thinking about the projection of sport.
In my case, right now, it is motivation. After what happened (postponement) with the Olympic Games, motivation fell a lot and also, staying motivated in Chile while training is very difficult, because there are few people practicing the sport. Personally, I have had to constantly fight with my head to stay motivated.
More than having won the medal, what fills me the most about this achievement is being the first canoeing athlete to qualify for the Olympic Games, which is the highest an athlete can aspire to.
Yes, I have been making history for a couple of years, since the Olympic cycle began, winning medals in the Bolivarian Games, ODESUR, Lima 2019 and now worldwide, but the most important one is missing, the Olympic medal. I am convinced that we can do it and we are working hard for that.
Personally, I am wondering whether to continue or not. I had planned to retire after Tokyo, but canoeing in Chile is in a difficult situation and we have no athletes for Santiago 2023. This has made me think about postponing my retirement and continuing until Paris 2024. We are evaluating and seeing how we are doing on the level.
If I get to compete in Santiago 2023, my aspirations are medals. Today I am among the world elite of canoeing and that allows me to dream of a gold medal at the Pan American Games in Santiago 2023 and what better thing is it getting it at home.
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