Monday, June 17, 2024

Inspired by Bruce Lee, Esmeralda Falcón will be first Mexican woman to box at Olympics

For the first time ever, Mexico will have a female boxer among the members of its Olympic team at the 2020 Tokyo Games to be held this July and August.

Esmeralda Falcón of Mexico City will represent her nation in the women’s lightweight (57–60 kilograms) division of the boxing competition at the Summer Olympic Games, which will start in the Japanese capital on July 23, a year later than originally planned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 25-year-old’s journey from schoolgirl to elite athlete can be traced back to the living room of her childhood home in Santiago Tulyehualco, a town in the southern Mexico City borough of Xohchimilco. It was there that her father put on Bruce Lee movies for the viewing pleasure of his children, unwittingly placing his daughter on a path to sporting glory.

“… Since I was a girl, I wanted to be like Bruce Lee, jump like Bruce Lee, defend and attack like Bruce Lee,” Falcón told the newspaper Milenio.

To emulate Lee, Falcón wanted to learn Chinese martial arts, or kung fu, but in her search for a gymnasium, she first found one where boxing was the sport of choice. And she decided to stay.

Esmeralda Falcon
Falcón came to the sport first seeking martial arts training. She stayed because she noticed few women in boxing.

“It really stood out to me that there were almost no women. All the [training] material was for men,” Falcón recalled, adding that she saw the male-dominated environment as “a kind of challenge” to overcome.

Another challenge was convincing the other female members of her family that she wasn’t being reckless in getting into the ring.

“In the beginning, my mother and my sister didn’t agree [with my decision to box] because they said that it was a dangerous sport … and I could get hurt,” she said.

The male members of her family were initially more supportive, she said.

“My dad and my brothers told me to think carefully about the decision but that if it was what I wanted, they would support me,” she said.

At the age of 18, Falcón decided to take her passion for boxing to another level and dedicate even more time to training with the aim of succeeding in competitive boxing.

“A lot of people said to me that I was already [too] old [to become a competitive boxer] but I told them that I could do it,” she said.

And indeed she could. In the same year that she turned 18, Falcón became the national champion in her weight division and would later go on to win a gold medal at the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games and a bronze medal at the 2019 Pan American Games.

Also in 2019, the boxer achieved another dream by joining the navy and beginning a physical education teaching degree at the Naval University in Mexico City. “Since before I was a sportswoman, my intention was to study in the navy,” she told Milenio.

While continuing to study for her degree, Falcón is training hard for her Olympics debut, which is now less than two months away. She qualified for the games after triumphing in one of the most difficult bouts of her career. Her opponent? Covid-19.

Falcón, an asthmatic, got sick last year after contracting the virus, an episode that forced her to stop training and caused her to lose the physical conditioning she had worked so hard to build up. But determined to win a spot on the Olympic team, she got back in the ring after recovering and gradually rebuilt her strength and fitness.

Now Falcón has her sights set firmly on not just competing in Tokyo but in future Olympic Games.

“I want to compete in the next Olympic Games [after Tokyo]. I want to be an Olympic medalist in the medium term; I don’t want to settle for just participating,” she said. “And I want to finish my degree in order to move up in the navy and exercise my services as a teacher.”

As for Falcón’s mother, she has well and truly overcome her initial doubts about her daughter’s dream.

“She told me that she’s very proud [of me],” the boxer said. “She told me to keep working hard, to not drop off [in my training]. She told me that [making the Olympics] is a great achievement but also a great responsibility and that I had to be mature, responsible and keep my feet on the ground.”

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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