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Paola Espinosa, miracle worker in platform diving going for medal in Tokyo

MEXICO DIVING (ADDS VIDEO) | 18 de agosto de 2019

By Gustavo Borges

Mexico City, Aug 18 (efe-epa).- After winning a world title, two Olympic medals and 15 at the Pan American Games, Mexican diver Paola Espinosa is a kind of miracle worker who seems to live above the law.

"I've already achieved all that I wanted. Now what I'm doing is full of emotions, nice feelings and happiness. Now, yes, I'm enjoying who I am," the competitor said.

Espinosa is one of the best Latin American athletes of this century, defeating the Chinese favorites in the 2009 Rome World Aquatic Championships to become the world's best in the 10-meter platform diving competition and earning two Olympic medals in synchronized diving, namely a bronze in Beijing in 2008 and a silver in London in 2012.

Her trainer, Ivan Bautista, believes that she is a woman with superior talent, born for the sport, although the key to her success is perhaps more linked with her ability to achieve miracles when faced with seemingly impossible odds.

"I suffered many years of pain from my right knee; even walking caused the liquid to flow there. I won the world title with water on the knee," Espinosa told EFE.

Because she got people used to the fact that she always won, Espinosa's image with the media is one of an invulnerable woman. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. In the last 20 years, becoming and remaining a diving champion was filled with pain for her, particularly when she was diagnosed with herniated disks in her spine.

"My back issue was the worst; a blow to my pride. I couldn't even dress myself or bathe alone. It hurt to get out of bed. It was sacroiliitis and sciatica at the same time. And besides, I had dislocated my hip," she said.

That happened four months before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. It was impossible for her to dive well in Brazil, but once again she achieved a miracle and ended up in fourth place.

"At times we focus on the nice things, that's what they see, but I'm still a woman, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Sometimes things hurt me, sometimes I cry and I lose hope," she said, disrupting the image of the almost divine heroine those who see her on television have of her.

Last month, Espinosa won the bronze medal in synchronized 3-meter diving with Melany Hernandez and it's logical to think of her as a contender for a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

But three years ago she moved from the 10-meter platform event to the 3-meter board and she needs to gain at least six kilograms (13.2 pounds) to be able to launch herself better and have the ability to do the twist and flip airborne maneuvers properly.

"For so many years I was used to being slender, to taking care of myself. It's costing me, I have to eat more but also work on how to focus so that this (weight gain process) can go faster," she said.

Espinosa made her debut at age 15 at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, and she said that it was among the most beautiful experiences of her life.

"I said how nice to be here, how nice to win a medal. Everything in my life is intertwined and now, once again, I'm excited about Japan. I feel that Tokyo 2020 can be my Olympic Games," she said.

This is Paola Espinosa at age 33, when the greatest emotion in her life comes from being a mother, keeping up her ability to give her all, working toward a goal and dreaming of a third Olympic medal.

"She has the talent and she can still beat anyone. Everything will depend on her investment in training," Bautista said.

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