This award belongs to all of us
Winner of the voting for the IWGA Athlete of the Year 2022 was Valeria Cardenas (23). The title went to the Colombian Ultimate Frisbee player after a thrilling finish during the final 24 hours. In the interview, the winner of the bronze medal at The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, USA says that even winning a ‘single award’ is a team effort.
What does the award mean to you?
Valeria Cardenas: It think it is a recognition of all the hard work and sacrifice I have had to make to be where I am. I am proud of what I have achieved and what I want to achieve in my career. I feel happiness and gratitude to the people who contributed to make this dream possible. And it’s not my award all alone. I think this title belongs to all of us who love this beautiful sport.
How did you live the exciting last hours?
Valeria Cardenas: I was very nervous about what was happening. I was not sure that I was going to make it, and we did not know if it was possible to achieve it. But with the support of many people, especially my sister Manuela, I finished the race first. It was amazing to feel the people so close to me, to see the love and affection. That the Ultimate community supported me in such a tremendous way was truly outstanding. I can’t stress it often enough: this award belongs to all of us.
How does it feel to win a "single award" as a team player?
Valeria Cardenas: For me, it’s not so much a single award, for this win was gained by team effort. My team-mates helped me make it possible, because being surrounded by players that make you better is hard to find, but I have them and that has helped me to make my performance on the field very good. So it’s not ‘me’ who won; ‘we’ are Athlete of the Year. That I can say this makes me really grateful.
How did family, friends and fellow athletes react?
Valeria Cardenas: During the last minutes of the voting, everyone in my team was sending updates by WhatsApp chat, and then they also felt this victory as theirs. As for my family, they were more nervous than I was, especially my sister Manuela who has always been so close to me.
Who was the first to congratulate you?
Valeria Cardenas: My mom, she called me crying because she could not be more happy. She also said so many nice words that I almost couldn't stop the tears. Then came a lot of messages from people from my sport and my family, who were so happy and proud of this recognition. In addition, my friends called me in a group chat. Unfortunately my cell phone got disconnected and I couldn't answer.
How did you get your fans to support you?
Valeria Cardenas: My plan was to be doing stories on Instagram telling people what this award was about. To be honest, my sister Manuela helped me in everything to achieve this recognition. She wrote to well-known people in Colombia to post stories and forward posts about the voting. Thus we reached a greater audience. Besides this, all the people in Ultimate have followed my progress very closely and have always supported us in everything we did. This was no exception, so I repeat that this achievement is everyone’s, because I saw every person in my sport posting stories on Instagram, and working to help me to fulfil this dream because of my hashtag #seVALEsoñar.
What are your memories of The World Games 2022?
Valeria Cardenas: I have many memories of The World Games because I lived it 100 percent. I like to remember that at every game we played we said a prayer that Moore taught us, and that helped me to enter the court feeling more confident. I also think a lot of the moment when we beat Germany and we were awarded with the bronze medal.
Where do you keep your bronze medal?
Valeria Cardenas: I have it hanging on the wall in my room along with the TWG 2017 medal. In Wroclaw, Poland we won a silver medal after playing USA in the final.
You are very much known for your club performance, what was it like to compete for Colombia, what did it mean to you?
Valeria Cardenas: Pride and resilience. Because to wear the colours of my country and represent it abroad is what I always dreamed of as a child, and it makes me proud to do it now as a grown-up. Resilience, because to get to be on the team I had to work hard, compete for a place and achieve a connection with everyone on the field. I made it thanks to my determination and dedication. Competing for Colombia was so incredible, because first of all you feel like a professional player. Everything was sponsored, and you had everything at your fingertips. Besides this, interacting with the different people from my team, meeting them and making friends. That’s what makes it special. You feel the support of a whole country that has the same dream that we want to achieve together. Unfortunately we were not able to win the tournament in 2022, so we want to achieve this ultimate goal in China in 2025.
What are your goals for this year?
Valeria Cardenas: To give continuity to my performance in Ultimate, to win all the tournaments I plan to participate in and to contribute as my best version in my teams. I want to get sponsored by the Colombian Ministry of Sport, to help my family to move forward.
And for the time after?
Valeria Cardenas: I want to become an inspiration for the youth and for people who play Ultimate, and who like sport in general. I want to continue to be an amazing athlete, honing skills to make me better at all positions on the field and become a better leader on the field.
Have you looked up where Chengdu, host of TWG 2025, is on the map?
Valeria Cardenas: Yes, and I am excited to be there at the next edition of The World Games. I will work harder to achieve gold!
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association, organised with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The World Games 2022 was held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and 100 countries took part in the Games. The 12th edition of The World Games will be held in Chengdu, CHN in 2025.