January 19, 2018

Paula Pareto, Olympic judoka

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

‘I train knowing another Games medal is possible’

By Martín Zendrón
Herald Staff

January 16, 1986
Studies: Medicine graduate
Achievements: First Olympic medal in Judo for Argentina (bronze in Beijing 2008); Gold medal in Pan-American Games in Guadalajara 2001; Bronze medal in Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro 2007

It’s not a usual thing to see someone who has been successful in both sports and studies while still under 30, but judoka Paula Pareto had done it all by 28. She claimed the bronze medal in the Olympic Games 2008 in Beijing and also became a graduate of medicine this year. And still, she continues studying and competing, producing what she calls her life-style.

What was it like studying and competing at the same time?

It became a life-style, more than an experience. It wasn’t easy, but I got used to it. When I travelled to compete outside the country, I studied for my tests.

Did you get any special treatment from your professors?

No, not at all. When I could, I took my tests with the rest of my classmates. If I was travelling or competing, I just waited for another date to take them.

Did your classmates recognize you? What did they say to you?

Nothing in particular. I mean, they knew that I travel a lot and compete. But they didn’t treat me differently because of that.

Did you continue studying after your graduation?

What I’m doing now is something called a rotating internship, in which I attend different classes, but it’s just practical and I don’t have to take tests. They give you a degree when you finish the eight or nine months of the internship. It’s going to complement my medical degree. And then I would like to take the residence test.

Do you find medicine easier now than when you were studying the degree?

No. Because I don’t think I have much more time than before. Also, I have to take advantage of the current moment to study for the residence test, which is quite difficult. And I have to attend classes every morning, which I did when I was undertaking my degree. So, the time available is almost the same.

Which are your aims as a sportswoman now?

I’ll compete in the World Championship in August. I will travel with a group of girls to Japan at the end of this month to prepare for it. I’m focused on that right now.

Do you have any date in mind to retire?

No, because we train thinking about the Olympics. To tell you the truth, I want to compete in the next Games, and then I’ll see what happens.

Talking about the Games, tell me about your experience in Beijing (2008) and London (2012).

It was a big surprise to win the medal in Beijing. I went to give my best and try to get as far as possible. I knew it was going to be very tough to win a medal, and to claim it was a big surprise for everyone. Before that, I’d decided to focus on my studies, but winning the medal was a big boost to keep training and everything changed. That’s why I can’t tell you when I will retire, because you never know what’s going to happen. In London, I was very close to clinching another medal (she finished in fifth place), but it was also a great experience. Now, I will keep training knowing that it’s possible to get another one.

How was your relationship with the other athletes there?

It’s always nice to travel for the Games because you create relationships with the rest of the athletes, it doesn’t matter if they are from the same sport. We are all Argentines and we share the same space. That’s what makes the tournament the best that’s around.

Do you intend on mixing sport with your studies?

Actually, I’m almost sure I’ll specialize in sports medicine, so I’m going to relate the two things in some way. I’ve always been involved in sports and that’s what I like, but I wouldn’t say that I will mix the two things because it’ll be in a different way.

Would you like to teach judo?

No, at least not for now. Maybe I’ll end up teaching judo in the future, but I’m not thinking about that right now.

Would you like to be involved in sport policy?

No, I’m not interested in that at all.

What do you think about the new management of the Sports Secretariat under Carlos Espínola?

It’s fine for now. He hasn’t been in charge for too long, so I don’t have any complaints. But I can say that in judo he’s continuing with what the previous management was doing. We’ll see what happens when we have to travel to compete. For now it’s all the same.

And what about Claudio Morresi’s management (he was replaced by Espínola in February)?

I think that he supported the sport (judo) a lot, compared with what the Sports Secretariat had done in the past. So, I don’t have any complaints about him.

Do you think that your medal was the key for the growth of judo in the country?

I think that it helped to increase the budget for judo, which was shared among all categories. I’m sure about that. In fact, they told me that. It was great news. Not only because of my medal, but also for the many others that we’ve clinched over the years.

Are women’s sports relevant in Argentina?

It’s changing. There are a lot of sports which have men’s and women’s categories. In fact in some sports that are usually associated with men, now women take part too like in soccer (amateur), for example, which is the most popular. Men and women have the same rights to train, compete and have a good time doing it.

What are some of the clearest cases of women playing their part in sports?

In judo, the most important achievements have come in the women’s competitions. Daniela Krukower, world champion, and Carolina Mariani, runner-up in World Championship, and then my medal in Beijing were the three most important achievements in judo. Although the men have their achievement too, the most important came from the women.

You mentioned soccer and it’s well known that you are a big fan of it. Do you still play?

Yes (laughs), I play it during weekends. It’s like a hobby. I play with my friends. It’s a good way to catch up.


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