At almost 35, Paola Espinosa, the diving star from Mexico, is certainly one of the most successful (and experienced) athletes in the women’s field. She is in Tokyo this week, ready and motivated to compete in the FINA Diving World Cup, with one assurance: whatever happens, she has already confirmed her presence in what will be her fifth Olympics. The key moment for this qualification was the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju (KOR), where she got her medal in the 3m springboard synchro final.
Since then, a lot of water run under the bridge, but a smiling Espinosa is confident in a good performance this summer in Japan.
“It has been a very difficult year for everyone”, she confesses. Besides the obvious challenges related with the COVID-19 global context, she was personally infected with the virus in mid-December 2020. What seemed to be an innocuous situation, then evolved into a serious pneumonia, necessitating a heavy treatment.
“I was very afraid, especially for my young daughter. At night, I was sleeping seated, as I feared I could not wake up in the morning… I had to take cortisone, I got extra kilos, and I was confronted with many contradictory messages. I then consulted with an expert and I strictly followed his treatment. After a month, things started to get better and I could resume training”.
World champion in 2009 in the 10m platform – she won three additional medals at the FINA showcase -, Espinosa is also the most decorated female Mexican diver at Olympic level, with a silver in 2012 in the 10m synchro final and a bronze, four years before, in the same event.
“These Olympics in Tokyo will be very emotional for me. I will live them in a completely different way this time. My dream was to have my daughter watching me from the stands, but this will unfortunately not be possible… She has been a very strong motivation for me during this difficult period”.
About her goals, she is clear: “to win a medal. I want this for me, for my daughter and for my country. I am training well, I feel strong, and I have a superb team around me, led by my coach Ivan Bautista. I have all the conditions to reach that target here in Tokyo”.
For the time being, the focus is the FINA Diving World Cup, where she will compete with her teammate Melany Hernandez in the 3m synchro final.
“This pool is outstanding – I like it a lot, you can already feel the competition. It is very beautiful, as we saw it so many times in the photos! Besides that, everyone is very friendly, taking care of us, and providing the best possible conditions”.
Her only regret, the lack of spectators: “Obviously, it won’t be the same. We will miss that emotion, those flags waving in the stands, the supporters’ joy… However, given this challenging situation, we can easily understand that the people’s health is the number one priority now…”
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