Paula Pareto

Buenos Aires, Aug 7 (IANS) Argentine judoka Paula Pareto, who won South America’s first gold medal at the Rio Olympics, said she felt like she was dreaming after her victory in the 48kg category.

“I can’t believe it,” said the athlete, 30, after defeating South Korea’s Jeong Bokyeong in the final on Saturday and becoming the first Argentine to win a gold in judo, reports Xinhua.

Pareto, despite being nicknamed “Small” due to measuring only 1.50 metre became a giant after taking the gold, improving on the bronze she won in Beijing 2008.

Right after winning, Pareto leapt into the stands to hug her relatives, friends and other Argentine fans who had cheered her on throughout the day.

“I knew it would be very hard. I am very happy,” she told the Argentine press on Saturday after winning.

“Now, I am going to fully enjoy myself, who knows what comes next.”

Pareto won her first three fights on Saturday against Russia’s Irina Dolgova, Hungary’s Eva Csernoviczki and Japan’s Ami Kondo, before defeating Jeong in the final.

Having graduated in medicine in 2014, Pareto, before flying to Rio, had said: “I hope to win first place and then see what happens.”

Born in San Fernando, north of Buenos Aires, Pareto began practising judo at the age of nine and quickly stood out at her club, Estudiantes de La Plata.

Her first big competition was at the 2007 Panamerican Games in Rio, where she won bronze in the 48kg category at the age of 21.

She took bronze again in Beijing 2008, bringing the first Olympic medal for judo to Argentina.

Asked how she focuses, Pareto said that she relies on her psychologist “to manage pressure, concentration and breathing”.

“I don’t feel any pressure, as judo is a sport where anyone can win or lose. It would be great to rely on my results but I start all the competitions from zero and with everything to do,” she said.

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