Yamilet Peña: I always compete against myself

Even though the main focus of Gymnovosti was gymnastics in Russia and other former Soviet countries (with a bit of Israeli news here and there), there are many gymnastics news and interviews out there in other languages that aren’t accessible to English speakers. We are trying to change that with the help of some amazing volunteers.

This is the first interview translation from Spanish published on our website. The translation was done by Patricia Franco.

Yamilet Peña gave this interview in November 2017.

With more than 15 years of career, the Dominican girl Yamilet Peña was one of the few female gymnasts who has done the most difficult WAG vault – the Produnova. However, Peña says she always competed only with herself and never looked at who her rivals were.

“In Dominican Republic, they call me “Chiqui”  [Little girl]. I always compete against Chiqui, there is no one around me. I always prepare to compete, and if the work is done the results will follow”.

Peña chose gymnastics over painting when she was 8 years old and she said she doesn’t regret her decision because the sport brought her many victories, such as the second place on vault in 2015 at the Pan American Games in Toronto.

“During the 2003 Pan American Games, I decided to stay in gymnastics forever, I felt that it was my chance and I always imagined myself being at such great competitions as those girls. I always said I want to do what those girls do”.

At the 2011 Worlds, Peña qualified to the vault finals in third place with her Produnova vault. At the time the vault had the starting difficulty of 7.0 creating an opportunity for a sky-high vault score. However, in the final, Peña sat the landing and didn’t medal. According to Peña, her coaches encouraged her to learn this difficult vault saying that this was her only chance to make Dominican gymnastics known on the world’s stage.

“I was never afraid. We started to train the vault, and we never expect to get this far. In 2011, we were at Worlds, we need a second vault and they asked me if I wanted to do this one. That’s all, the rest is history”.

“Chiqui” said that the worst part of competing is the mental preparation because she gets very anxious and feels a lot of pressure since she is one of the most important athletes representing her country.

“I need a way to channel my energy, with another person who supports me to be able to get it. So, I try to keep my breath, work hard, and do my training like a competition so that I’m always ready.”

The interview was given right before the Bolivarian Games where Peña ended up becoming 5th in AA, making all four event finals and taking gold on vault and silver on bars and floor. Before the Games, she hoped to make vault and floor finals.

“I’ve been training with a Cuban coach since Central American championships qualifications. And I feel that we are doing such a good job we always try to peak at the right time for the competitions, and this is like I feel, just great. Besides, I am not suffering from any injuries now”.

She values the support of the Dominican government as well which appreciates her work as an athlete, so she hopes to achieve positive results for her country.

“Our government gave me so much support, so I have to return the favor with victories. Because of that, we have been working so hard,  and if we deliver they are going to give us more [support] for the next competitions”.


Photo: Acento

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