Success can be just as demanding as defeat; a thought that must have occurred to taekwondo champions Joel González and Brigitte Yagüe. On Wednesday, González won Spain’s first ever taekwondo gold medal, whilst Yagüe took home a silver.
Once the competition was over and they had received their medals, the pair had to do some press calls and go through anti-doping tests. When they finally returned to the Olympic Village, it was 3am and they were exhausted. “We contemplated going out to celebrate, but decided against it as we still have a colleague competing,” said Joel. “All we wanted to do was go back and eat. We attacked McDonalds,” adds Yagüe.
It says a lot about taekwondo, a sport where competitors, who are grouped according to weight, go to extreme measures before the official weighing. It is easier for some, like Joel, who at 1.85m is naturally slim: “My normal weight is 61 kg. I have to lose three (his category is for those under 58 kg). It isn’t difficult if I go about it the right way.”
Before falling asleep, the two had a heart to heart. “We sat on the sofa reliving the Games,” Joel recalls; “I reminded Brigitte of what I had told her when we arrived \[in London\]: ‘We always win medals when we compete on the same day. Can you imagine it happening here?’ And we laughed.”
Brigitte is still in the clouds, and is well aware of the significance of the achievement. For Joel, the medal “is important” not just for him, but for Spanish taekwondo, which, prior to these games, had just the one silver medal won by Gabriel Esparza in Sydney in 2000.
Now they have fulfilled their objective, it is time to take a break and think about vacations. After less successful experiences at the Games in Athens and Beijing, as well as a bout of retirement, Yagüe’s hiatus might be a little longer. “I would love to be a mother next year [she is married to fellow Olympian Juan Antonio Ramos]. It’s my dream. And then I would return to training for the Games in Rio.”