"The gold medals changed our lives and paved the way for women's sport"

HUntil the 1992 Barcelona Games, no Spanish woman had been on an Olympic podium. In that appointment, which marked a before and after for the national women’s sport, eight did it, including Miriam Blasco (judo), Theresa Zabell (sailing) and Mercedes Coghen (hockey), that this Saturday they recalled that milestone at MARCA Sport Weekend.

The three Olympic champions agreed that those medals changed their lives and paved the way for many athletes, that have been reaping numerous sports successes subsequently. “Yes, that gold changed my life,” recalled Blasco, the first Spanish Olympic champion in history. “She made me think that I could achieve what I wanted. An example is that 30 years later we are talking about it.”

Zabell was of the same opinion. “Success like that changes you,” said the sailor, which affected the hardships they sometimes had to go through to achieve their dreams. “We traveled on our own, we paid for everything. Sometimes we ate fries with mayonnaise because we had no money. That makes us see how far we’ve come.”

We traveled on our own, we paid for everything. Sometimes we eat fries with mayonnaise because we don’t have money

Theresa Zabell, Olympic champion

For its part, Mercedes Coghen recalled the harshness of the trips and the concentrations of the months prior to the Games, for a practically amateur team. “For us, sport was a hobby then,” recalled Coghen. “In our mind then there was hardly the fact of thinking about being professionals. In fact, there were colleagues who retired after winning gold. The months before the Games were very hard. The training sessions were incredible from the physical point of view and innovative. for that time. We trained reflexes with tennis ball throwing machines, but with hockey balls.”

In our mind then there was hardly the fact of thinking about being professionals. There were companions who withdrew after winning gold. The months before the Games were tough

Mercedes Coghen, Olympic champion

And the anecdotes arrived, many of them related to the scarce money that Spanish athletes then had to defray competition expenses. “Sometimes we even went hungry,” Coghen admitted. “On some trip to Russia, in order to get some fruit, bananas for example, we came to exchange paintings.”

Zabell talked about those competitions where she was the captain of the men. “When getting off the ship, a journalist even asked a colleague: How do you let a woman boss you around?”

Miriam Blasco also emphasized the difference in treatment that sporting and female successes received in the media at the time. “There are many differences between our time and now. We were invisible to many and we didn’t even appear on the covers. In some media, Daniel Plaza’s medal was large and mine was small in a corner.”

There are many differences between our time and now. We were invisible to many and we didn’t even appear on the covers

Miriam Blasco, Olympic champion

And, although the advances have been very important, there are still some ‘glass ceilings’ in the sport, like the one that has to do with the presence of women at the head of the Federations. “It is a challenge that remains and must be faced,” explains Coghen. “You have to work so that women have that gap. It has been a world of men and there is still work to be done.”

That is why, even though before they were against quotas, now Zabell and Blasco defend them. “At first we were not in favor of quotas,” they both said. “It is necessary to start, to be inside, although later it will no longer be in 5 or 10 years.”

And all three agreed that it is essential that girls have female role models whom they want to emulate. “In some studies that we have done in schools, 80% of the children said they wanted to be like Ral or Alonso, at that time. But the girls did not have those references.”

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