Lima 2019 Pan American Champion and former Team Chile Weightlifting World Champion, Maria Fernanda Valdes, dreams of reaching the podium at the Tokyo Olympics.

Despite the pandemic, she is confident that she will arrive prepared for the Olympics and will improve on her 6th place finish at Rio 2016. “I hope I can, like Marlene Ahrens did, be the second woman to give an Olympic medal to Chile.”

From near anonymity, Maria Fernanda Valdes has become renowned in Chilean society. Today, she is the face of the sportswear brand Adidas, she is invited to cooking television programs, contests, and every day people recognize her more on the street.

A status that has been earned with the effort and passion of a true warrior. She has known of joys, sorrows, triumphs and what it feels like to be at rock bottom, nearly choosing to retire.

“Everything happens for a reason and we can learn from everything. That moment helped me grow as a person and know how to move forward. I had lost my way. Thinking of an objective to say if I can do it, if I continue and don’t retire, it made me grow and find myself again,” says Fernanda Valdes.

Today at 28 years old, she is getting ready for the third Olympic Games of her career, where she does want to bring joy to Chile.

At London 2012, she earned ninth place with a total of 223 kgs (96 kilos in snatch and 127 in clean and jerk) and at Rio 2016, she finished in sixth place with 242 total kgs (107 and 135).

She achieved the best result of her sports career at the World Championship in Anaheim, winning the gold medal in clean and jerk with a spectacular 146 kgs.

For Tokyo, Fernanda is one of Chile’s best bets to reach the podium and become the second woman from the country to win an Olympic medal after Marlene Ahrens won the silver medal in the javelin throw at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games.

“She is the pride of every woman and athlete of our entire country. Her death was undoubtedly a great loss to all of us. Every athlete works to earn an Olympic medal but you always have to have clear objectives. I hope I can, like Marlene Ahrens did, be the second woman to give an Olympic medal to Chile.”

The pandemic, like all athletes in the world, affected the Chilean athlete. She had to accommodate a space in her house to lift weights and be supervised virtually by her Hungarian coach Giorgi Panchev.

“The pandemic is difficult for everyone, but it helped me recover from my injury, therefore it helped me a lot. I am convinced that everything happens for a reason. I did not train much, due to the operation, but what I did what I could at my house on the terrace with a little implementation provided by the Chilean Weightlifting Federation and the Chilean Olympic Committee,” added the Pan American Champion of Lima 2019.

The “Strongest Woman in Chile” represents a true example for her country. Her charisma, her effort and the sacrifices she has made in her life to excel in sport have given her the image of a leader in Chilean society.

That is why her message to all women — not only in Chile but throughout the continent — on this important date when we celebrate International Women’s Day, is to believe in yourself.

“My message to all women on the continent and in the world in general is that no one can tell you that you can’t. When you propose something, do it with strength and conviction. One often limits oneself out of fear, but we women are strong and warriors, very powerful qualities. You have to continue with your all, never give up. A kiss and a big hug to all of you on this special day,” concluded Fernanda.