Lydia Valentin is retiring. With her goes the best weightlifter Spain has ever had, the only national athlete, woman or man, to have won an Olympic medal in her specialty (she won gold in London 2012, as well as silver and bronze in Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016) . , a pioneer also in World Cups, as she is the only Spaniard to be named the best gold medalist in 2017 and 2018. This Thursday, at an event at the Spanish Olympic Committee, accompanied by family and friends, Valentín (Ponferrada, 38 years old) has ended her career: “I leave happy, fulfilled, calm and very grateful. I have achieved much more than I ever imagined. I took my sport to the top of the world. From today a new life begins that will be full of success because I carry the values of sport I have learned with me.
After two years without competition – his last appearance was at the Tokyo Olympics in August 2021 – and due to a hip injury, Valentín had recently tried to prepare for qualification for the Paris Games next year. The athlete registered for the Havana Grand Prix last June was ultimately unable to compete due to this injury and was also unable to prepare for the World Championships, which took place in the first two weeks of this month and served as a qualifier for the Games. for the same reason.
“I had a dream of going to Paris, but the Olympics demand a lot from you. There are still 300 days left and we have to do our best, but with a hip injury I sustained it’s complicated. I knew that if I wasn’t the usual Lydia, I wouldn’t compete. I have achieved everything and competing again and knowing that after about a year of injury I already have what I am going to achieve makes me think about my health. This decision is under consideration, but I leave full and very happy. I’m not sad. “It’s brutal that people remember Lydia Valentin with weightlifting, a sport that has no power in Spain,” he said.
Valentín got into weightlifting by chance when he was 11 years old in his town of Camponaraya, a small town of 4,000 inhabitants on the outskirts of Ponferrada (León). There was a sports program in which weightlifting also played a role, since the former mayor of this city, the socialist Antonio Canedo, had built a sports facility a few years earlier and put Isaac Álvarez in charge of it, with whom he shared a passion for weightlifting , a specialty in which both were trainers. “I met her when she was seven years old. He had natural talent and exceptional conditions. He was an excellent gymnast and played spectacular basketball. She was very coordinated and had great strength… She was superior to everyone,” Álvarez explained a few years ago.
Agile and competitive, Lydia stood out for her attitude and talent. In the newly created Camponaraya sports program, the coaches adored her. He was good at everything. “I was the one who ran the most, the one who jumped the most, the one who fought with the boys because the girls were no longer a match for me,” she explained to El País Semanal in 2018. When she was 11 years old When she was old, she tried weightlifting. He liked it and still does to this day. “I was sure I would be successful. At 14, when she was able to compete due to her age, she was crowned Spanish champion twice in a row,” recalls Álvarez. From there, the Spanish Weightlifting Federation chose her and at the age of 15, Lydia, the middle of three sisters, moved to Madrid, to the Higher Sports Council’s High Performance Center (CAR), to the Joaquín Residence Blume, 400 kilometers from Camponaraya . “My parents weren’t selfish. You thought of me. They saw me so excited, so confident, with so much desire… They believed that this could be my only chance,” Valentin himself explained.
Two delayed medals
She was tenacious, technically and physically very well prepared and her mental strength allowed her to overcome various milestones throughout her career. From her early days in the Central African Republic, where she recalled other athletes giving up because they couldn’t handle the pressure and demands, to her belated Olympic glory. In 2016, the disqualification of several athletes of Russian, Belarusian, Kazakh and Chinese nationalities for doping at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics gave her the silver and gold medals, respectively, at the Beijing and London competitions. It was a joy, even if the damage of not being able to celebrate those medals when it was appropriate years ago was already there again. The economic impact in the form of unrealized ADO scholarships and lost potential sponsors was also significant.
In 2020, when the pandemic broke out, Valentín hastily left the Central African Republic after a trainer tested positive for Covid and went home, where he continued training. The Tokyo Games, which were supposed to have taken place this summer, were postponed until next year, and he arrived at the Japanese event, where he was already 36, with inadequate preparation. “I wasn’t at my best moment or my best performance. I hadn’t trained for three days and have been doing this for many years. And miracles… No,” he admitted to this newspaper. Even back then he had problems with his hip and therefore gave up in the middle of the Olympic competition. It was the beginning of his farewell. Today was the last. Lydia Valentin and her heart movement with her hands with every victory in her career are now sports history.
You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes on Facebook and X or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.