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Third Olympic Berth ‘Biggest Boost Of Motivation’ For Chile’s Castro
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Heading towards her third consecutive Olympic Games, 30-year-old Chilean gymnast Simona Castro intends to make her performance at next summer’s Tokyo Games her strongest yet.

Born January 11, 1989, in Santiago, Castro became Chile’s first female gymnastics Olympian when she competed at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where she finished 43rd all-around. She qualified for her second Olympic Games in 2016 in Rio, where she placed placed 52nd all-around in qualifications. Castro earned a berth to next summer’s Tokyo Games through her performance at this fall’s World Championships in Stuttgart.

Castro has enjoyed varied successes beyond her Olympian credentials. Since 2014 she has qualified for 11 Challenge Cup finals, winning the silver medal on balance beam and the bronze medal on floor exercise at the 2016 Challenge Cup of Sao Paulo. Castro placed 15th all-around at the 2018 Senior Pan American Championships and 14th all-around at the 2019 Pan American Games. She is coached by her mother, Isabel Lazo. Her older sister, Martina Castro, competed at the 2009 and 2013 Worlds.

After competing for the University of Denver for four years, Castro earned a degree in business administration from the university in 2013. She serves as an ambassador of the ONU Mujeres (UN Women) program, a United Nations project promoting self-confidence in young women.

In this IG Online interview, the resolute Castro reflects on her past Olympic fortunes and projects her hopes for Tokyo.

IG: Going into Stuttgart, what did you think of your chances to qualify for Tokyo, and after your actual performance in Stuttgart, did you think it was enough?

SC: I believe Stuttgart was our only chance to qualify for Tokyo 2020. We did plan on qualifying and we understood how well we had to do in order to qualify. There was a lot of pressure for me as well as for many other gymnasts, so we planned on having the least amount of mistakes and took out every possible skill that could get punished by the judges. I did believe for a second that I didn't make it. I had a mistake starting on beam, but really focused on making up for it in the next three events. After that, it was just about waiting for everyone else to compete. Competition is competition, and anything could have happened but I was very hopeful I was in.

IG: We know that your performance in London was limited by injuries (chronic pain in her Achilles tendon and an inflamed shoulder muscle, and having just recovered from a torn abdominal muscle), but in Rio you also did not have your best performance. To what do you attribute your performance in Rio?

SC: Overthinking. Rather than focusing on the routine itself, I focused on what I wanted to accomplish. Gymnastics is about taking one thing at a time, one skill at a time, and unfortunately, it affected my performance.

IG: How is your mindset different in this Olympic cycle, compared with your preparations for London and Rio? In terms of physical preparation, how has your training in this Olympic cycle been different from the previous two?

SC: It has been very different compared to the past. I believe it has been more about overcoming my own limitations. I suffered a major injury right after Rio that took me out for almost two years. At one point I really thought I wasn't going to be able to come back. Everything else felt hard after that. Recovery took way too long, as well as getting back in physical shape. Being strong enough to endure throughout routines was a bit harder on my feet, especially on floor and beam. My body felt different, and I had to learn how to deal with different. I learned to adapt, and I got smarter in terms of recovery on how many hours and repetitions I took, as well as mind very much how I had to eat. I have focused on getting physically stronger in order to prevent injuries as well as give my body a little bit more recovery time during the weeks of training. My first goal during these past three years was to get back to my comfort level, which I accomplished at the 2018 Worlds. After that it has been about the Tokyo qualification and earning trust and confidence. Qualifying for the Olympics gave the biggest boost of motivation and certainly paid off all the hard work that it took to come back from the injury, as well as all the not-so-bright days in the middle. I'm I still working on my all-around by trying to get stronger on bars and vault.

IG: At 30, what drives you onward towards another Olympic Games?

SC: Enjoying and improving myself.

IG: With such a lengthy career, what more do you have left to prove to yourself?

SC: I know I can do more, which is what I hope to put into my routines this year. I have been working a couple of skills on the side and I'm hoping I get the chance to compete them this year.

IG: How has your role as ONU Mujeres (UN WOMEN) ambassador inspired you, in and out of the gym?

SC: This role has certainly changed my perspective on what kind of example I want to give to future generations. How to teach children about confidence and self-esteem is a very hard task to accomplish since there are so many factors that affect today's society. Sports is a very good tool, and I hope to do my best to help get rid of stereotypes as well as give them the tools they need to help us become a gender-equal society. I want to help empower women as well as help create new opportunities for women in sports.

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