Soraya Jiménez was good at all the sports she practiced. Along with her twin sister Magali she excelled in swimming, badminton and basketball, until Soraya was struck by weight lifting… and she was also good at it. Throughout her life, with much sacrifice and technique, she surpassed herself until she achieved a meteoric career that took her in seven years from the local and national championships to the international and world championships.
Soraya knew how to gain a foothold in a discipline that no one practiced in Mexico, achieve the minimum support of a coach and a sponsor and, above all, overcome the barriers of a sport considered only for men until then. In Sydney 2000 weightlifting was first opened up to women and Soraya Jiménez made history in the 58kg category.
He touched the sky on September 18, when all of Mexico slept due to the time difference, with his first Olympic participation managing to lift 127.5 kilos in two times and hanging the gold medal, the tenth in the history of Mexico in the Olympic Games but the first achieved by a woman. From that moment, Soraya became the inspiration for many girls and young women in Mexican sports in general and in weightlifting in particular.
Everything pointed, due to her youth, to a successful cycle full of triumphs, but in 2002 her ordeal began, with heavy loads with which Soraya Jiménez could not: diseases, injuries, surgical interventions, removal of a lung and the occasional scandal that they were gradually withdrawing her from top-level sports life, although she always remained faithful to her training sessions with the promising youngsters.
Her physical situation worsened as did her financial situation and the loneliness to which she was relegated. A myocardial infarction ended his life at the age of 35, causing great shock in Mexican society and in the world weightlifting family.
Soraya Jiménez Mendívil was born in Naucalpan (Mexico) on this day, August 5, 44 years ago, in 1977. The marriage of José Luis Jiménez and María Dolores Mendívil had three children, two twins, Soraya and Magali, and a brother minor, José Luis.
The sisters practiced sports from a very young age and excelled in various disciplines. At the age of 11, Soraya discovered weightlifting and the teachers saw great potential in her to achieve great marks well above her age.
He had a passion for sport in his DNA, since one of his uncle, Manuel Mendívil, had been a bronze medalist in the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games in horse riding. He was his greatest sports inspiration and at the same time his greatest motivation to appear on the wall of Mexican Olympic medalists.
At the age of 16, the young weight lifter achieved her first international triumph with a third place in the NORCECA Cup in Colorado Springs (United States) in the category of 54 kilos, lifting 120 kilos.
Soraya Jiménez faced the difficulties and discrimination of a sport that in the Olympic Games was only for men, so, when in 1997 the IOC approved the participation of women in weightlifting, all her work turned to the next Olympic event, Sydney 2000. She got sponsored by the gas company her father worked for and found a Bulgarian coach to trust, Georgi Koev.
But high-level sport began to take its toll on Soraya with knee injuries that accompanied her throughout her life, although they did not prevent her from reaching gold at the 1998 Maracaibo Central American Games and silver at the 1999 Pan American Games. Jiménez Mendívil trained for a year in Bulgaria, away from any distraction, and also missing his family very much.
Despite the pessimism that reigned in the Mexican expedition to Sydney after achieving only one medal in the previous Atlanta 96 event and a poor participation in the Pan American Games, Soraya Jiménez knew that she had the opportunity of her life before her.
In Mexico it was five in the morning on Monday, September 18, when Soraya, almost unnoticed, took over the competition by lifting 127.5 kilos in two stages. Her determination, coupled with the poor performance of North Korean favorite Ri Song Hiu, earned her the gold medal. After 16 years, the Mexican national anthem sounded again for the first woman to do so.
Within a few hours, Soraya Jiménez was the front page of all the national media, turned into a legend. The country fell to its feet and it was not for less, since to date only María del Rosario Espinoza in taekwondo, in Beijing 2008, achieved another gold for Mexico.
However, Soraya was never the same again after reaching the top of the game in Sydney. A terrifying balance of 14 operations on his left leg, the loss of a lung, three pictures of influenza, five cardiorespiratory arrests and a life with excesses and some scandal ended up reducing his career, his economy and his health, until he fell into oblivion. from those who had flattered her, although never from the public, who continue to idolize her for what she achieved.
The ordeal for Soraya began in 2002, when the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) denounced that the athlete had falsified documents to accredit herself as a Business Administration student and thus be able to participate in the University World Weightlifting Championship in Turkey. Soraya acknowledged her mistake due to the desire to compete and apologized for her unsportsmanlike conduct without being reported.
A few weeks later, the Mexican Weightlifting Federation reported that Soraya had tested positive for an anti-doping test for the use of an antidepressant prohibited by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). She was disabled for half a year, but the sports authorities considered that the substance, which she had ingested on medical prescription, did not improve her performance, so the sanction was only valid for a few months. From that moment, however, Soraya began a marked decline in the competitive level and the scholarships were withdrawn.
In 2004 the situation hit rock bottom when the athlete announced her withdrawal from qualification for the Athens Games. A torn knee and lack of support led Soraya to make this painful decision. From that moment, the athlete’s health was diminished with continuous knee interventions, the removal of the right lung due to influenza and a coma that she overcame due to another serious episode of the same disease.
In an interview in 2010 the athlete acknowledged that “I have had influenza three times and the bacteria destroyed my defenses. My body does not produce them and a simple flu should be taken care of as much as possible because it can turn into pneumonia and send me to the hospital. I suffer from bronchospasm in the larynx and I have already had five cardiorespiratory arrests ”, commented Soraya Jiménez.
What little money she had she invested in almost daily trips to see the evolution of her quarry dumbbells, and to earn a living she advised other sportsmen and studied to become a lawyer.
However, his sudden and unexpected death from cardiac arrest on March 28, 2013, when he was only 35 years old, shocked Mexico.
Soraya Jiménez was an example of improvement for several athletes, especially for women who decided to practice weightlifting thanks to her.
Beyond the conditions of her last years of life, her legend has been immortalized as the first Mexican to achieve a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Her legacy in the women’s sport of weightlifting was reflected in the most significant cases of Damaris Aguirre and Luz Acosta, both bronze winners at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, respectively.
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