Angelica Delgado Gives Thanks Her Longtime No. 1 Fan: Her Dad And Coach
by Angelica Delgado
Angelica Delgado (white) competing against Tsolmon Adiyasambuu (blue) during the women's 52kg elimination round Olympic Games Rio 2016 on Aug. 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
I know you would have loved to be with me at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. You would have been cheering from the stands in Spanish, along with mom most likely having a heart attack while you hold her down to her seat. However, due to the COVID-19 virus and this global pandemic, spectators will not be allowed to enter Tokyo.
This day has been as much your dream as it has been mine. You fled Cuba in the 1980s in search of political and religious freedom. One of the only material possessions you brought with you from the island was an old tattered Judogi, or judo uniform. I still remember the smell of the old Judogi when I first came upon it at eight years old. I begged you to tell me the story of how you began judo in Cuba and how your mother took you to your very first lesson. As you began teaching me the basics of judo in our very own backyard, you taught me my very first lesson: how to break fall.
The first thing you learn in judo is to break falls, so when your partner or opponent is throwing you, you do not get hurt. You learn how to take a fall and get right back up. Throughout my entire life and career, I have been falling and getting right back up. When I was about 15 years old and just beginning high school, I began competing internationally in Europe.
The task of competing on foreign soil for the first time with just my teammates and coach was daunting. I failed over and over again to just make it past the first round. I fell. It was heartbreaking seeing my teammates do better than I had on the international stage. I questioned myself and the singular dream I had of becoming Olympic champion. However, you taught me that failure is only part of the process when you are trying to accomplish something great. I got back up.
Every tournament I lost, you told me I had come back home with new knowledge, and I would never make the same mistake again. We spoke about judo and tactics every day on our long one-hour drive to and from practice. You never resented and almost enjoyed being stuck in Miami traffic while I finished up my homework so we could talk tactics.
Your faith and patience never wavered. When I began doing very well in the USA Judo Junior divisions and later on in the USA Judo Senior Elite National level divisions, you were always right there by my side. Even when I missed making the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team by one spot, you told me God had a different and better plan for me. I got right back up again.
With the assistance of you, my coaches and my team, I finally made my first Olympic team in 2016. It was anything but an easy road. In order to qualify for judo as you know, you must be within the top 22 women in the world in my weight class.
You were right there with me at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, coaching and yelling from the stands as you always have. Yelling a mixture of prayers and combinations of techniques I could attack my opponent with. You told me after I lost in Rio, that 2020 would be my year to shine. With the postponement of the Tokyo Games, 2021 is now our year.
Even though you won’t be there with me, I know you will be yelling and praying for me from across the world. This is OUR dream. Even if I fall, I promise I’ll get right back up.
I cannot wait to make you proud.