Antía Jácome

An Olympic dream

01/23/2024 · By Roberto C. Rascón
Antía Jácome, athlete on the Iberia Talento a bordo Team
Antía Jácome, athlete on the Iberia Talento a bordo Team.

In her dreams, canoeist Antía Jácome can see herself at the Paris Olympics with a medal (or two!) around her neck. A dream that, after winning three silvers at the last World Championships, seems destined to come true. Born in Galicia, the birthplace of great canoeists —like her role models David Cal or Teresa Portela—, she considers her land the ideal place to practice canoeing.

2023 saw Antía Jácome (Pontevedra, 1999) turn into one of the best canoeists in the world. Proof of this are the three silver medals she won at the World Championships in Duisburg (Germany) last August. With these precedents, this canoeist from Galicia is a firm favourite among the Spanish delegation to win a medal in Paris. Other athletes would buckle under that pressure, but Antía seems comfortable with the situation and conveys such strong confidence that, when asked if she dreams of winning an Olympic medal, she does not hesitate: “Yes, I’m incredibly determined.” In fact, she’s not just dreaming of one, but two medals: in the C1 200 category, competing individually, and the C2 500, alongside María Corbera. If this dream comes true, canoeing, which currently boasts 20 medals, could surpass sailing (21) as the discipline that has brought Spanish sport the most joy at the Olympics. “I believe that, slowly, people are taking more and more notice of canoeing. The good results we’re having also help,” Antía celebrates.

The three silvers you won during the last World Championships make you one of the best canoeists in the world. Does this put extra pressure on you?
I don’t feel under pressure because I fight daily to be one of the best in the world. For me, good results are the best gift imaginable. 2023 was a great year because I haven’t stepped off the podium, neither at the World Championships, nor at the World Cup, nor at the European Games. I’ve been among the best and I can’t ask for much more, except winning an Olympic gold medal in 2024.

At the tender age of 23, you’ve already accomplished big goals. Would you say that talent is what has led you this far? Or is there something else?
Nobody is born talented; you have to work for it. Working hard daily is what allows you to reach the goals you set yourself. I’ve always set myself realistic goals, when I started, I never thought I could be an Olympic champion. We all have dreams, but the best thing to do is go step by step because there’s a long road ahead and we need to enjoy it.

“Nobody is born talented; you have to work for it. Working hard daily is what allows you to reach the goals you set yourself”

Beyond arduous training, what other aspects are the keys to success in sport?
There are many things to work on beyond training. For example, this year I’ve changed several aspects of my life, including my nutrition, which has gone really well. Each extra detail counts. Having a good therapist also helps. Having a good head on your shoulders is essential in sport, I’d say it’s 80% because if your head’s not in it, your body won’t respond. You have to teach your mind to enjoy the effort, no matter how tough it is. I’ve learnt to enjoy every moment that canoeing gives me.

Your next big goal is Paris. You had modest aspirations for Tokyo and still achieved an Olympic diploma (5th in C1 200). Are you dreaming of a medal now?
Yes, I’m incredibly determined. I was in a different head space when I went to the Tokyo Olympics because I didn’t expect to go, I qualified two weeks before and wasn’t sure what I could achieve. Winning 5th place was crazy because I’d never been so high on the leaderboard of a top competition. 2023 was an incredible year for me and now my mind is focused on winning an Olympic medal (or medals, both individually and in doubles). I’m all in!

The Spanish boats have qualified for C1 200 and C2 500 in Paris. Except in the case of force majeure, you’ll be onboard. Can qualifying so early lead to unconsciously relaxing?
I think this “relaxing” is important. Athletes live under constant stress and qualifying is reassuring. In any case, we can’t get lazy because in April the decision will be taken regarding who will finally get in those boats. I don’t consider that I’ve already qualified for the Games, I still need to pass that selection process to be able to compete in Paris. That’s why we have to keep fighting every day.

“2023 was an incredible year for me and now my mind is focused on winning an Olympic medal (or medals). I’m all in!”

María Corbera is your teammate in the C2 500 category and, at the same time, your rival in the C1 200. What’s that situation like? Does this competition make you better?
María and I get on really well. In fact, since we started working together our relationship has changed; there’s more communication and less rivalry. Being able to support each other is a beautiful thing. In the end, it’s important to be compatible with your teammate and this isn’t easy to achieve. We have a lot of trust and hope in the C2 500 for Paris. It looks promising! And individually, it’s good for there to be healthy rivalry between us because we both want to win.

The Spanish team won 13 medals at the last World Championships, proving it’s on good form. What does Spanish canoeing do well?
We give it our all, and that’s essential. From each team (men’s canoe, women’s canoe, men’s kayak, and women’s kayak) to each coach. The fact that we’ve got increasingly more means to maximise our performance is also really important. The Federation’s support impacts our results.

“In Galicia, we had one of the pioneers, David Cal, and that made many of us excited to emulate him”

What is it about Galicia that produces so much talent connected to canoeing? Teresa Portela, Rodrigo Germade, Carolina García, Carlos Arévalo, you...
In Galicia, we had one of the pioneers, David Cal —my current technical director at UCAM—, and that made many of us excited to emulate him and be able to represent Spain. Having a role model like him in your region is key. In my environment, there was a lot of talk about canoeing, and everyone followed David on TV. We also have Teresa Portela, who’s another role model for me. Both of them are also really approachable, especially with children. Another key aspect is the great (and beautiful, what can I say!) training locations we have in Galicia.

For Teresa Portela, the Paris Olympics will be her seventh Games. They’ll be your second. Do you dream of emulating her?
Right now, I struggle to think about competing in seven Olympic Games. It’s not that I don’t want to follow in her footsteps, Teresa is an amazing woman and what she’s achieved is incredible, but all the training she’s had to do for so many years is excessive and I’m not considering it at the moment. I’ll continue until my mind and body say “enough”, until I no longer enjoy what I do. Obviously, I’d like to go to more Games and win Olympic medals, but I prefer to live day to day and not think so much about the future.