For Sandra Sánchez (September 16, 1981, Talavera de la Reina) there is no truce. The world kata champion is competing in Shanghai less than a month after winning gold in Madrid.
How do you define and how do you define karate?
How difficult! (laughs) Always with hope, sometimes with ingenuity and with the maturity and strength of everything I have learned. With desire to live and enjoy. And karate is a lifestyle. It is what has shaped me as a person because I was lucky to have a teacher, who was disciplined, hard, but wholehearted.
Has success been late?
It has arrived when it had to arrive. You live things that make you how you are and everything lined up so that it would arrive at that moment. Maybe younger would not have achieved it because I do not train with the head or the maturity of now. It is like the reward for many things because you can train a lot, sacrifice many things and still you do not arrive. It is nice to live this moment naturally. I know that I have achieved something important, but life goes on. Life is much more than the medal.
Did you ever lose faith?
This is like a roller coaster. The gold came after twenty years losing and it is not easy. People told me why I'm still here, but you keep that little flame inside your heart that says "I think I can." Yes there are moments of inflection because there is a very fine line to assume that maybe what you think is not real and that you have to attend to what the outsiders say. Or not, and keep fighting for that little flame that is sometimes weaker and sometimes stronger. What you never have to do is surrender.
Is there a moment of change of mentality?
There is a stage that is when I start training with Jesús del Moral. We travel to Japan, we take many concepts, we mix them and we add our things. We create a new training system and the sum of everything is the "click". It is what makes this level jump and add a series of circumstances that help to have that opportunity. If you do not have it, you can put everything, but if you do not enter the team or do not take a European or an international championship you can never really know your level.
On that trip, did you discover a new karate?
Not a new one, but another way of understanding it, how to use my body to get the most out of it. A teacher from Japan, Inoke, who was a visionary and an advance changed the concept. It did not correct you one thing, it made you practice so that your body learned to correct that error. That was a bit what changed us and made us see another way of training not only to repeat and say what the defect is, but to teach your body not to commit that failure.
Do you feel that you have reached a ceiling?
No, I have it very clear because after the gold I already wanted to train. I always leave the championships thinking about what I can improve. I do not think I'm going to stop, I'm very excited to live many things and want to keep improving.
What do you think rivals think of you?
On the tatami there is a lot of respect and I can be an example to not mark an age limit. Now you are like the opponent to beat, although I am one of those who I think always, in each championship you start from scratch because it no longer only depends on the rivals but an imbalance leaves me out, whether it be gold or the last.
And is not there a truce?
The truth is that I would need it, but the reality is that all the championships score for the Olympic ranking and it closes in April 2020. Today we do not have enough points to allow us a break. If I continue like this, maybe a moment will come when you can mathematically decide that you are not going to a championship and that you take some rest, but today I have to go to everyone. I prefer that the beating is now and add those points and then, have more room for the Games and preparation for those months.
Does gold change your life?
Before the World Cup I was awarded the National Sports Prize and that put a lot of spotlight. Who is Sandra? What is this about karate? I was lucky to have the support of Pelayo who got involved with me and now doors are opening and I have even been given a Volvo. Now I can convey many positive things that are useful even at the company level. And these days have been a maelstrom. Personally I hope it does not change me. If someday they see me that I start to be different, I have Jesus (laughs) who gives me a camp and says: «Sandra, man …». I learn to know through their eyes. You have to have the vision of those around you and he always tells me that you have to live naturally.
I imagine it will have helped that karate is an Olympic discipline in Tokyo …
It has changed everything. We are much better taken care of because there are aids of all kinds. From private companies, women and sports … we have facilities that we did not have before, although they are basic as being able to travel to competitions several days before, have your hotel … And in Tokyo we will almost be at home, because in a championship recently we were encouraged by the Japanese as if they were Spanish and I thought "my mother is going to kick you out of the country" (laughs). We can go with all the time we want in advance so that in the end the change of country or food, although I love Japanese food, be the most natural.
And think beyond Tokyo?
I try not to mark me neither beginning nor end because so many people ask me about age, but they already asked me when I started, that if it was only going to last a year … I do not want to mark an end I want to let my body and my mind go flowing and when I see how they are going to decide.
Can you live by karate?
Now we are in the ADO plan and that for the "top" allows us to live by karate and be able to dedicate ourselves only to training. It depends on our results and that is a handicap. It is difficult to plan a normal life or a mortgage because you depend on a championship. What happens is that we are two or three people who are at the highest level. Everything below has to evolve. For example, in karate there is a group of 8 or 10 competitors that are helped in promotion so that they can focus on studying and training without having to worry about the economic issue.
Is it to carry amulets?
I always wear the dragon balls because I saw the small series with my brother and it is something that holds us together. I try not to take it as an amulet. If one day I forget, I always think that I go out on the mat with my amulet, which are the hours of training.
Is there a change at the media level in relation to women's sport?
I think it's a time of change. There are private companies, such as Iberdrola, that bet on women's sports and then a generation of women who are making history. It is a very sweet moment. We are doing our job in the best possible way, in addition to that I believe that society is seeing a movement.
And that her parents wanted her to be a dancer …
(Laughter) They did it with all the love of the world. My father signed up for karate when I taught in Talavera. He has followed it very closely. They have always given all the support to my brother and me. But I do understand that when I was younger they thought I'd be better off dancing. Yes, it's true that when I got my tantrum saying that they took me with my brother they thought it would happen to me. But they saw that I liked it a lot, that I enjoyed it and they supported me. At the beginning they traveled around all of Spain to all the championships that we had and they have always been there.
He is also a football fan …
Yes, I invite Atlético to their stadium and soon I will go to the Bernabéu (laughs). But I'm from Talavera and the national team (more laughter). When I was watching them in Las Rozas, I liked the interest they showed in how I won the gold. What I like most about soccer is playing it. I was right side in a half professional team when I was in Australia. All boys and me. Now I do not play to avoid injuries.
How is your day to day?
I get up about half past seven. Breakfast and at nine thirty we are already on the tatami until one o'clock. Then we stop, shower, eat and rest thirty minutes and at four we start training again until six or seven. Then we have contrast baths, a little physio, rest, dinner, read a book and sleep.