“We all have limitations, the worst of them is psychological,” says Naomi Soazo, the judoka who was not afraid to face adversity, a fighter to the end and proud winner of two Paralympic medals making history in Venezuelan sports.
Born on December 19, 1988 in Caracas, Venezuela, Naomi Alejandra Soazo Boccardo has had to face the most difficult battle since she was only 11 years old: overcoming pigmentary retinitis. Her tatami mat reads “my best sensei in life: my father”, describing Soazo’s bond with her father and coach, Humberto, who encouraged her to engage in this discipline.
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Soazo, who has Japanese roots, began her participation in the sport in early 2000, but it was not until six years later that she competed in her first World Cup in France, which did not leave the best taste in her mouth as she was left off the medal podium with a 7th place finish.
Things would be much different however, at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, where Soazo shone bright in the 63 kilogram division, leaving behind all ghosts that tormented her in France. There she reached her greatest dream: the gold medal and listening to her country’s national anthem while the “Vinotinto” flag rose to the top of the flagpole.
“It was a unique experience…my goal was to get on the podium and take first place. My motivation was to listen to my national anthem there. When we did it, we couldn’t believe it. We dreamed of it so much that touching the medal was something unreal,” remembered Soazo.
“I am happy to have left my mark on the Paralympic movement in my country, in history,” she added.
She would receive another blow as a result of her vision problems which affected competing in the 2012 London Games, where she would be eliminated in the semifinals, taking fifth place. She returned home not only with Paralympic recognition, but respect from the rest of the world.
She was not done yet, however. Her last world performance was at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. She took home the bronze medal in the B2 division of 70 kilograms division to seal a spectacular Paralympic career as the only Venezuelan to win gold and medal in this event.