The karate champion of the world kumite, María Torres, tells the keys to the gold achieved in Dubai, her routine, the figure of her father and her psychologist, her vocation to be a teacher and her ability to resurface: “2021 has been the worst and the best year of my life.”
The karate fighter from Malaga is still living a dream, still “in a state of shock” every time she reads that she is a World Champion karate in the form of kumite +68 kilos, an achievement that never occurred in the absolute category in Spanish sport.
At 24 years old, she is already a pioneer and one of the three pillars of Japanese sports on a national scale, with permission of the Olympic medalists Sandra Sánchez and Damián Quintero.
The athlete landed on Monday at the Malaga train station and there were more than 200 people waiting for her, including family, friends, partner, students from her school and fans. After being crowned in the Karate World Championship held in Dubai, “I did not expect such a welcome” or everything that came, comes and will come later, she tells excitedly in a conversation with Efe.
Countless congratulations, such as those from his Málaga Football Club or the Kings of Spain, which surprised him the most; the reception at the Malaga City Council and tributes such as the one The Andalusian Federation of Karate will do you next weekend at the Ciudad Jardín sports center with Damián Quintero. These are days of being in the spotlight, of not stopping, but “live them and enjoy them to the fullest.”
The high point of her career came last weekend, when she won the gold medal by a tight 5-4 in a “very exciting” final against Egypt’s Menna Shaaban Okila. “The key has been self-confidence,” explains Torres, who arrived at the event after months of good preparation. That medal cannot be understood without everything behind it.
A routine from the mental
María Torres has been on the tatami since she was three years old. His father, Gregorio Torres, a karate coach and five-time European champion, is the basis of his success: “Gold is more his than mine, for me it is everything, He knows how to motivate me, “he says.
Your reference, your teacher and your support when things don’t go well. Your best advice? “He has always tried to instill in me that I enjoy, that I do this to enjoy.”
Climbing to the top of the podium in Dubai has been the prize for perseverance: three hours a day of training, a careful nutrition, technical work and several times a week a specific preparation in ‘scouting’ to the rivals, to study their tactics. “Get up, go to training, eat, go to work and go back to training”, summarizes. She does not forget to work with her psychologist, who considers something crucial.
“With my sports psychologist I talk more about everyday life than about sports”, aware that, in elite sport as in life, “everything affects”. “It helps me in the moments of downturn, it gives me tips for when I have doubts,” he tells about his psychologist, with whom he works every week. In times of pressure or doubts about his abilities, he found a way out thanks to taking care of his mind.
“2021, my worst and my best year”
Kumite is a form of karate that is based on combat with controlled techniques, where you can only hit the head controlled and in the body more forcefully. There are three minutes of stopped time – the referee can stop the fight when he sees fit – and whoever has the most points wins. It seems simple, but the work of months can disappear at the slightest mistake on the mat.
That need to touch technical perfection and stay focused is well known to María, who experienced the saddest moment of her career in June of this year. Ran out of the Tokyo Olympics, an unfulfilled dream for losing in the pre-Olympic a match in the last second after going 2-0 winning.
After that blow of reality and knowing the intention of the organization of the next Olympics to erase karate as an Olympic sport, he focused on a World Championship that he ended up winning. From this contrast he draws a lesson: “Many times you fight and you don’t get it. I wanted to go to the Games, I trained to the fullest and I didn’t make it. But I kept fighting and now another dream has come true.” He says it without hesitation: “2021 has been the worst and the best year of my life.”
After bathing in gold, María Torres will continue teaching her sport, something she has been doing since she was 18 years old, while giving sports activities at the El Atabal school. Her vocation is to be a teacher, a “physical education teacher”, because she loves sports and children.
He doesn’t live off elite karate, he lives with his parents and “if she had to become independent, things would get complicated. “Karate women like her need many sponsorships and do not have a fixed salary, weaknesses of a minority sport. “I have help, but not the necessary,” he says when asked if it is possible to earn a living in his sport.
After touching the sky, María Torres will continue to be that 24-year-old girl with a normal life, dedicated to sports, teaching and without any hint of conformity. And now that? “To continue winning more championships,” he responds point-blank, “this is only the beginning.”