Boricua Judoka Champion Melissa Mojica Tells Us About This Year’s Olympic Experience

Feature Image Melissa BELatina Latinx
Photo credit via elvocero.com

The coronavirus has been depriving the world of many things this year. It has been the culprit for canceled shows, closed shops, and postponed events. It may have, for instance, allowed for the postponement of the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 until next year, but that does not mean its “presence” won’t be felt this year. However, the world’s resourcefulness is still intact, which is how an Olympic-inspired virtual event has now come to light for our viewing pleasure. 

Airbnb, in partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), decided to host, Olympian and Paralympian Online Experiences, a virtual summer festival. This event will be held for five days, starting when the Olympics were originally set to be held, and will provide over 100 unique interactive virtual activities that can be enjoyed by the viewers. Through this festival, many will be given the opportunity to interact with current and retired Olympic athletes. Participating athletes will be presenting viewers with personalized experiences on this event facilitated by Airbnb. 

One of these athletes will be Melissa Mojica, an acclaimed Puerto Rican judo champion. Her event is sold out.

She has won the Panam Championships in 2008 where she obtained 12 continental medals. Her dedication has brought many medals to her.  Her track record of success includes Buenos Aires’ 2016 PanAm Open, Grand Prix in Samsun, Lima’s 2019 Pan American Championship, Quito’s 2019 Pan American Open, and at the Grand Prix in Montreal. 

This badass judoka has also won World Cup medals, 14 to be exact, that were gradually collected while in other tournaments in places such as San Salvador, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo. 

Mojica’s strength is more than what people see on the surface. It’s deeper than that. She is a Latina who believes no one should ever give up despite any adversity they may encounter. This is something that has allowed her to achieve many of her goals. 

BELatina recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with Mojica about this exciting virtual summer event. This is what she had to say: 

Would you please give us more insight into what your Olympic experience entails?

Well, my Airbnb Online Experience will take place in my home in Puerto Rico where viewers will be able to connect via Zoom. I’ll be preparing the adobo sauce for adobo de pernil (pork), a very traditional Puerto Rican dish. As viewers get a glimpse of my cooking skills, we’ll also be chatting about my career as a professional athlete and my journey to the Olympic games in London 2012 and Rio in 2016. I’ll be sharing details about some of the toughest challenges and decisions athletes of all types may face as well. It’s important to talk about these things. 

Melissa Mojica BELatina Latinx
Photo credit via periodicolaperla.com

How did you obtain your success as a judo athlete, especially in a world where women are not thought of as masters in Judo?

It really has not been easy for women to be judo athletes in the past. Nonetheless, we’ve had some women that have driven us from the beginning. For instance, in Puerto Rico, Lisa Boscarino (Pan-American Championship 1982), and Nilmarie Santini (World Championship 1986) were our pioneers — they finally put women in judo on the map. They opened doors for future generations like mine. Thanks to them, the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee has a designated budget to directly support the development of women in judo. Now, the international Judo Committee recognizes equity in judo around the world. Before this, men were the only ones recognized in this sport and that’s not what it’s about at all. 

Was it difficult pursuing this in your hometown? 

I belong to one of the luckiest generations of Judokas who now have more opportunities thanks to the hard work done by those in the past. The challenge we face now is that the budget designated for Puerto Rican athletes is not necessarily a priority for our government, so a lot of resources that Olympic athletes need aren’t covered. It’s worrisome. That’s one of the reasons why platforms such as Airbnb Online Experiences have come about. Through their program, they have allowed athletes, such as myself, to continue to generate an income while sharing our personal journeys with people all over the world.

How has life been now that you’re an Olympian?

Well, I’m now semi-retired. However, before I fully retire, I am preparing to finish my Olympic career in Tokyo 2021. After that, you’ll surely find me saying that I am a fulfilled ex-Olympic Judo athlete.

How can this festival benefit the younger Latinx population?

The Online Experiences being hosted during the festival are amazing because they give the younger generations some insight into the many things that athletes face and how to overcome them. In reality, this festival is not only meant to inspire aspiring athletes but for anyone with dreams and goals. It really is a motivational experience. 

What suggestions can you give our audience on training during a pandemic?

Eat as healthy as you can and exercise several times a week based on your fitness goals. I also find it very beneficial to meditate. Doing these things can help you during these unprecedented times. 

What are your plans for the future?

After Tokyo 2021, I look forward to pursuing a career as a nurse. I’ve already obtained my bachelor’s degree as a registered nurse in May 2019 and I am planning on starting my graduate studies very soon.

Any words of inspiration/motivation for BELatina readers?

Keep working on making your dreams come true. Don’t let anyone take them away from you. Fight, work hard, and never stop believing!