After the two fourth places in the 49er (that of Tamara Echegoyen-Paula Barceló and Diego Button-Iago López Marra), Joan Cardona, 23 years old and the youngest of the Spanish sailing expedition, has obtained the first medal for the discipline in Tokyo, a bronze in the Finn category. The gold went to the British Giles Scott and the silver to the Hungarian Zsombor Berecz.
Cardona is a six-foot giant, a golf lover. So much so that he stays up late every time there are important competitions like the Augusta Masters. “You don’t lose one, he is like that, he is passionate about something that is already up there with it. When a thing is proposed, it goes full, full, full; pound and pound ”, describes his coach, Diego Fructuso. Despite being a junior, it is astonishing how calmly Cardona has jumped onto the Enoshima race course every day since the competition began. While the others are looking nervous and overwhelmed, he allows himself the luxury of joking for up to a minute before leaving. His coach says he has an enviable cold blood.
The qualifying rounds to qualify for the Medal Race (the race for medals, accessed by only the top 10 boats) is a hellish process that lasts a week and forces you to be at the highest level every day: to make the decisions correct and, above all, to understand what does not work when things go wrong. Hitting the key can fix the following races, lose yourself, condemns you to drag the doubts of the previous day and to elimination. Ask Silvia Mas and Patricia Cantero, from 470, who arrived as world champions and have not qualified for the Medal Race.
“This medal tastes like gold to me because it has been a very hard race and a very long week. The feeling is incredible ”, says Cardona while assuring that he has had a bad time at the start of the Medal. “I have complicated my life a bit by myself.” He went out to compete after the 49ers, male and female, who entered the Medal Race with medal options and yet were left off the podium. Did you notice more pressure for having to get a result? They asked him. “The pressure is always there, whatever they do. It has made me sad, at least with this medal to see if I can give them a little joy ”.
Cardona competes in the Finn class, one of the slowest modalities. This is how he explains it, born in Barcelona but Minorcan by adoption. Her parents, teachers, moved to the island when Joan was one month old. “In Olympic sailing, we decide a lot about the boat in which we sail because of the physique, the weight and the height. Our ship is that of the so-called heavy weightOf the heavyweights, we are the largest and heaviest in Olympic sailing and due to my characteristics it was the boat that suited me best ”. It started in this modality (which will not be in the Paris 2024 Olympic program) in 2017. The boat measures 4.5 meters and weighs 116 kilos without the mast. “It is one of the slowest and also for that reason the races are much tighter. It is a very tactical boat in which it is very important to be very well physically and to be very good at positioning with the rest because we are all so close together that any small difference is noticeable a lot ”, he explains.
He did basketball since he was little, but where he got the most results was sailing. “I used to like that very much. There was a good atmosphere at the Mahón club and I opted for sailing ”, he says. He was a child when his parents, who had a boat, took him to sail through the coves of Menorca. It took little time to get started with the Optimist (dinghy). “At the age of nine I went to my first championship in Spain, traveling, the atmosphere, making a very large group of friends, going out to compete and seeing that I had a high level was what motivated me the most.” So, at the age of 15, he left Menorca and moved to Mallorca, to the Balearic technology center. And that, says his coach, was not easy: “Leaving home, betting everything on this is never easy.”
Many are the things that many things have had to put aside. “I finished my studies in high school, but I did not enroll in university. Those are the sacrifices, not going out with my friends so much, being away from home most of the year without seeing family. But I quickly got used to it. ” So fast that in his Olympic debut he has taken bronze.
“Winning an Olympic medal has always been my life’s dream. So putting everything aside has not been a very big sacrifice either, in the end I’m doing what I like and what I really want ”. In Paris 2024 the Finn is dropped from the Olympic program. “And it’s a shame, because with Joan we would have had a career for a while,” laments his coach. His weight does not adapt to the 49er, much less to the 470. “The option you have would be to lose 15 kilos and compete in Laser,” says Fructuoso. And Cardona says: “I just thought about coming to Tokyo and enjoying the moment, now I will calmly think about what I’m going to do.”
This Wednesday, Jordi Xammar and Nico Rodríguez, of the 470, will compete in the Medal Race, the last medal option for Spanish sailing, which arrived in Tokyo with 10 boats classified from 10 categories.
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