Cycling BMX Racing
Mariana Pajón is a true legend in the world of BMX racing and her achievements have earned her the nickname "Queen of BMX"
Pajón is also a legend in her home country, Colombia, after she became the first woman to win two Olympic gold medals, climbing to the top of the podium at both London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Last October, the athlete visited Japan for the first time to participate in a test event.
With the Olympics approaching, Pajón has her mind set on Tokyo. Her goal: to get her third Olympic gold.
“For me, coming to Tokyo is very exciting and it is very important to attend this test event. It is great to be here, to get to know the circuit, and see what we will face in a few months. I am very happy to be here," she said during the 2019 test event.
Tokyo 2020 / Shugo TAKEMI
More than 50 men and 45 women from 24 different countries participated in the test event. Australia’s Saya Sakakibara won the women’s event with reigning world champion Alise Willoughby (USA) and teammate Felicia Stancil close behind. Pajón finished in the eighth position.
Despite a disappointing result, it was important for Pajón to test a course she hopes to return to in a few months.
“Tokyo 2020 is going to be very exciting for me. If I get here, it means I will reach the maximum level and surpass myself once again. I want to feel things that I have never felt before. I want to feel that adrenaline again at the beginning of the race. And, obviously, I want to bring Colombia's colours back to the top. But above all, I want to enjoy it and remember everything that happens in this competition.”
Pajón is a very cheerful woman and always dons a big smile, but the BMX superstar's career has also been marked by injuries. Recently she was sidelined from competitions for nine months due to a serious knee injury that she sustained after colliding with another rider in May 2018.
During her time as a professional athlete, Pajón has sustained 18 fractures in different parts of the body (hands, arms, ankles, knees, ribs and shoulders), three concussions, a facial paralysis, a hematoma that almost cost her a kidney, plus nine screws and two plates on her left wrist.
At one point, she also had to learn how to walk again.
“I am a very happy person, with a life full of opportunities. Very good things have happened to me.
And also some bad things. But everything has made me stronger.”
The 28-year-old has been competing at the highest level for many years. She started on the BMX track in Medellín, her hometown, following in the footsteps of Miguel, her older brother.
“I fell in love with that lifestyle from day one and today I still enjoy it in the same way,” she said.
For Pajón it is also very important to elevate the name of Medellín.
Although it is already a long time ago, for many the name of her city is still associated with the wars between drug cartels, and she wants to change this conception through sport.
“Medellín has changed a lot, and the success of its athletes internationally has helped improve the image. My city has gone through very difficult times because of drug trafficking. I remember going to school and hearing bombs or seeing dead people in the street. Now things are very different, that situation was overcome. I want people to know what we are capable of achieving. I like being an ambassador of my city."
Tokyo 2020 / Shugo TAKEMI
Pajón won her first national title at age five and her first world title at nine. Overall, she has won 14 World Championships, nine Latin American Championships and 10 Pan American championships.
In 2012, she took part in her first Olympic Games in London and was selected to be the flag-bearer for Colombia at the Opening Ceremony.
The Olympic Games were always her dream.
“In 2010, before qualifying for the Games, I tattooed the Olympic rings on my arm. This tattoo was a contract with myself.”
“I told myself that I will not only go to the Games but I will win there. People told me I was crazy because I hadn't even qualified, but it was very clear in my mind.”
With her brilliant career, Pajón is an example for future generations of Colombian children who also dream of being high-level athletes.
“To all those young people who want to follow the path of sport I say that all dreams can be fulfilled. For me, winning in London was a dream come true, but I worked hard to repeat it again in Brazil and I was able to achieve it. Hopefully, it will happen again”
At Tokyo 2020, Pajón hopes to continue setting an example and also has her eyes on getting back on the podium to carry on reigning in her sport.