Photo courtesy of Melina Serrano
Juan Diego Garcia stands proudly as Para Pan-American, Para World and Paralympic champion. European Championship and Grand Prix successes make the picture even clearer: Diego Garcia is the real deal
He is also a fitting ambassador for our sport.
His ferocity on the mat, where old school skills light up his game, are perfectly contrasted with his easy-going charm, one of the many reasons he was selected as a flag bearer for the opening ceremony of Guadalajara 2022 World Taekwondo Championships.
“I felt very happy to be part of the opening ceremony, to show my support for such an important event and for the whole Mexican team,” Diego Garcia said. “It was very emotional when we came out with the flag, I had goosebumps as we enjoyed the celebration of Mexican culture and everyone cheering our names.”
Some 6,000 fans packed out the stadium to welcome all the fighters from across the world and sang the Mexican national anthem with great power. “It was just an amazing feeling to listen to the Mexican national anthem here at home, but it’s also so nice to listen to the anthem on the other side of the world!” Diego Garcia said. “And I hope it will be playing again as I aim to win gold at Paris 2024.”
The 2024 Paralympics will be shared globally on TV for the first time after the sport’s highly successful debut at Tokyo 2020. Without pandemic restrictions, Paris 2024 should be the first chance for the whole Diego Garcia family to share the moment.
“I am fully focussed on qualifying directly for Paris 2024 and staying number one in the rankings,” he said. “I want to hear the anthem played again - this time with my family - and we will do everything possible to be together.”
Family is a major motivation for Diego Garcia who sees their support as central to his success, likewise the guidance of his coach Janet Alegria, and the two took the opportunity to study a few of the Olympic champions in Mexico. Diego Garcia explained, “We have seen many top fighters here and there are some useful techniques that we will implement in our training to keep innovating. In 2023 we have the World Championships, the Grand Prix and the Para Pan American Games, so we must always seek out new ways and techniques to improve.”
That perpetual path to improvement is one that the man from the coastal state of Sinaloa, Mexico, knows well with rigorous training alongside his Olympic compatriots at the National Centre for High Performance. He stepped onto that path at the age of 14 and sees his success as a way to clear the way for others.
“This really motivates me and pushes me to do better in order to give a good example of how things should be done,” he said. “I feel really happy that there are people, and many kids, that are getting into Para Taekwondo.”
Significant progress has been made this year to fully incorporate Para Taekwondo into the World Taekwondo calendar. Diego Garcia approves. “This equality makes me very happy since the federation is being inclusive and Paralympic and Olympic athletes are being treated the same,” he said.
As 2022 draws to a close it gives everyone a moment to reflect on what has been a very busy and successful year. With champions like Juan Diego Garcia the future looks bright and his final message typifies the fighting spirit that is the core of our sport.
“My message is that every time you do any activity do it with your heart, it is important, at least for me everything works better this way,” he said. “Always give your best in order to achieve what you wish for.”
Wise words from a young man who has made it to the top of his profession - and particularly impressive when we remember his message of “Para Ti, Para Mi, Para TKD”, a perfect reminder of how much he has done for our sport.