Mariana Pajón dreams of her third win in Tokyo 2020
Mariana Pajón is considered a legend in her country of origin, Colombia, and in the world of BMX cycling. Her achievements have earned her the nickname "Queen of BMX".
She is also the first Colombian to win two Olympic gold medals, climbing to the top of the podium at both London 2012 and Rio 2016.
The BMX athlete visited Japan to participate in the READY STEADY TOKYO – Cycling (BMX Racing) Test Event held at the Ariake Urban Sports Park on Friday 11 October.
“For me, coming to Tokyo is very exciting and very important to attend this test event. It is great to be here, to get to know the circuit, and see what we will face in a year's time. I am very happy to be here.”
For Pajón, this was her first visit to Japan, a country that she had always admired.
“I had been to other countries in Asia, but never here. I never imagined that it would be like this. It's amazing.”
“From the moment I landed, everything has impressed me a lot.
“The most beautiful thing is the Japanese culture of respect, which I believe, that all parts of the world should learn something from.”
More than 50 men and 45 women from 24 different countries participated in the test event. Australia’s Saya Sakakibara won the women’s event with USA’s and reigning World Champion Alise Willoughby, and teammate Felicia Stancil close behind.
Pajón finished in the eighth position.
Despite a disappointing result, it was important for Pajón to test the circuit where she hopes to be back in a few months.
“Tokyo 2020 is going to be very exciting for me. If I get here, it means I will reach the maximum level and surpass myself once again. I want to feel things that I have never felt before. I want to feel that adrenaline again at the beginning of the race. And, obviously, I want to bring Colombia's colours back to the top. But above all, I want to enjoy and I want to remember everything that will be happening in this competition.”
The 27-year-old has been competing at her highest peak level for many years. She started on the BMX track in Medellin, her hometown, following in the footsteps of Miguel, her older brother.
“I fell in love with that lifestyle from day one and today I still enjoy it the same way,” she said.
Pajón won her first national title at age five and her first world title at nine. Overall, she has won 14 world championships, 2 national championships in the United States, 9 Latin American Championships and 10 Pan American championships.
In 2012, she took part in her first Olympic Games in London and was selected to be the flag-bearer for Colombia at the Opening Ceremony.
The Olympic Games were always her dream.
“In 2010, before qualifying for the Games, I tattooed the Olympic rings on my arm. This tattoo was a contract with myself.”
“I told myself not only will I go to the Games but I will win there. People told me I was crazy because I hadn't even qualified, but it was very clear on my mind.”
Pajón is a very cheerful woman and always dons a big smile on her face but the BMX superstar's career was also marked by injuries.
She’s had 18 fractures in different parts of the body (hands, arms, ankles, knees, ribs and shoulders), three concussions, a facial paralysis, a hematoma that almost cost her a kidney, plus nine screws and two plates on her left wrist. At one point, she also had to learn how to walk again.
“I am a very happy person, with a life full of opportunities. Very good things have happened to me. And also some bad things. But everything has made me stronger.”
With her brilliant career, Pajón is an example for future generations of Colombian children who also dream of being high-level athletes.
“To all those young people who want to follow the path of sport I say that all dreams can be fulfilled. For me, winning in London was a dream come true, but I worked hard to repeat it again in Brazil and I was able to achieve it. Hopefully, it will happen again”
At Tokyo 2020, Pajón hopes to continue setting an example and also eyes getting back on the podium to carry on reigning in her sport.