María GUÉDEZ:

"I don't store my gold medal anywhere.
I always take it with me"

World champion 2015 in weight category under 48 kg among women
1. Please recall and describe the emotions you felt when you became a world SAMBO champion in 2015.

"From the very moment I won, I felt total joy at winning a world title! At that moment, I remembered everything that had happened in my life and helped me reach this goal. I also thought that all my sacrifices were worth it, because I achieved my goal of winning a world championship. I also felt like my heart was about to burst from my chest from the overwhelming emotions, because my journey to victory wasn't easy."

2. How did they congratulate you? What do you remember most?

"A lot of sambists and coaches from around the world congratulated me at the competitions, especially those from Latin American countries, since we're all good friends with one another. They gave me a lot of hugs and said many kind words about my achievement, which was special not only for me, but for all Latin American countries; I also got a lot of attention from all over the world.

It's really hard to single out any particular memory of the world championships, because a lot of memorable events stand out in my mind. But my best memories are of the moment the referee raised my arm in the final fight. Another memory that stays with me is when I left the mat after the final fight and Makteuik lifted me onto his shoulders. That was when I felt we'd achieved this goal together, and that God was always with us."

3. How has your life changed in the year since the last world championships? Does the status of the world SAMBO champion help you in sports and in everyday life?

"This status has really helped me. In the sports world, it's opened the doors to first-rate clubs where I can train together with great athletes and great coaches. For example, I was able to train with a SAMBO group at the Montpellier Sporting Club in France with coach Guillaume Alberti and his athletes, especially Laure Fournier, a multiple medalist in international SAMBO tournaments. I also had a wonderful opportunity to train together with the Kletskov brothers at the legendary Sambo-70 school in Moscow. After that, I had the honor of training for nearly 2 months in St. Petersburg with Elena Eremina's coach at the Comprehensive School of High Sports Mastery (CSHSM).

My World Championship medal has also had a real effect on my daily life, because thanks to my award, the Ministry of Sports of Venezuela gave me the apartment I'd always dreamed of. I always wanted to get my brothers out of the districts where they used to live, because there was a lot crime there. Winning this medal made the country's authorities, like the government administration and the country's leaders, take me a lot more seriously. It was also really important for me to win the respect of Venezuela's top athletes."
SAMBO was founded not only by great athletes, but by great people
4. Where do you keep your gold medal? How important is it for you?

"I don't store my gold medal anywhere. I always take it with me if I'm going somewhere, because it really makes me stand out. I sometimes meet people on the street who ask me about the medal, and I always tell them: "Here it is!"

This medal is very important for me, because it's the result of a lot of commitment, effort, dedication and self-sacrifice."

5. Will you participate in the 2016 World SAMBO Championships in Bulgaria? If yes, how is your training going?

"Yes, thanks to God and FIAS, I'll be competing in my ninth world championships (including world youth championships and sixth adult). I'm training hard for it every day and trying to overcome my weak points from the previous year. I know it will be very hard to keep my title, but I'm working to make it happen. Day after day, I train physically, tactically, mentally and spiritually."

6. What qualities do you need to become a world SAMBO champion?

"Above it all, you need to be modest, kind, disciplined, persistent and ready to give everything in each workout, because you hammer out your medal during workouts, and when you arrive at the competition, it's easy to find. SAMBO is a very difficult sport, and you have to be well trained in all aspects."

7. What would you like to say to your fans? And to your opponents?

"I would say they started practicing SAMBO, because this kind of sport teaches you how to pick yourself up each time you fall. SAMBO also promotes qualities and principles that help you become a better person, because SAMBO was founded not only by great athletes, but by great people. To fans who already practice SAMBO, I'd say that they should always want to move forward. You have to work hard every day and be disciplined. Of course, you have to look for God, because he gives me strength to achieve victories.

To my competitors, I'd like to say that we're opponents on the mat, but off it, we're best friends. Even though we're fighting for medals or some place at competitions, we can't let that affect our friendship."
Read the interviews with the other champions here:
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