Jun 26, 2024

A malpractice, a lot of pain and sadness made Venezuelan judoka Anriquelis Barrios believe that she could not qualify for her second Olympic Games. At that moment, she pushed herself to continue and show who she really was: a passionate, perseverant and resilient woman who would continue fighting for her dreams.

In the exciting world of judo, where physical and mental strength are connected on the tatami, the inspiring story of Anriquelis Barrios was born, who after overcoming adversity, has secured her qualification to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in the -63 kg category.

An initial knee ligament surgery that was supposed to improve his performance went wrong, leading Barrios to a state of uncertainty and pain. The malpractice, in addition to affecting his body, also put his warrior spirit in check.

“At the third month post-surgery while training I realized that something was wrong and I decided with my team to have another check-up and the result was fatal. I was in shock when they told me that I could not go to the Olympics and that they had not done the work that was due. Very worried, I decided to change doctors and we tried to do the impossible so that my knee would be fine and here we are. Thanks to God, to Dr. Franco Cordivani and my physiotherapists, Tony García and David Belandria”, explains Barrios.

The need for a second operation was evident, and so began a difficult recovery process. “It was a very hard stage,” confesses Anriquelis, “but it was also a period of deep learning about myself and the importance of surrounding myself with the right people.”

The judoka had to rebuild her confidence and mental toughness. With the support of her family, her work team and friends, Anriquelis found the strength to return to the tatami. Her return to competition was gradual, but each bout brought her closer to her goal: Paris 2024.

“I thank God for this great achievement that is a blessing for me, and all those who have been there for me: my dad who has always been very insistent with me in all my training, my mom who has always guided me on the right path, sensei Katiuska Santaella and the Venezuelan Judo Federation for believing in me and continue betting on my judo, the Ministry of Sport, my friends, Tokai University for opening their doors, sensei Mitsumoto and Ian Sancho for also accompanying me”.

With her preparation divided between Venezuela and Japan, a country where she has a scholarship thanks to the Venezuelan Judo Federation, together with the IJF, the Olympic Committee of Japan and Tokai University, Barrios explains that France is more than a competition for her. “I want to give my best. These Olympic Games are a great opportunity and I hope to give my best,” she adds.


After eleven months away from combat, on April 30 he returned with a fifth place finish at the Pan American and Oceania Judo Championships held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A tour of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Abu Dhabi followed, which allowed him to score points and take possession of the continental quota by placing 31st in the Olympic ranking and 23rd in the official ranking.

“Judo the first thing it teaches you is the salute and falls. If you fall seven times and get up eight, that’s one of my learnings. Get up and follow your dreams no matter how many times you stumble. Paris 2024 is my second chance to get rid of that thorn from Tokyo, although after everything I went through, this is a giant triumph, an incredible feat,” Barrios said.

His journey, besides being a lesson in perseverance, is also a testimony to the indomitable human will to achieve his dreams. “I started judo because of my parents. My dad, Pablo Barrios, is a coach and my mom, Lisbeth Hernandez, was a National Team member. Over time I fell in love with this sport and I’m still here in search of my main goal: to be on the Olympic podium,” he emphasizes.

Anriquelis’ qualification for the Olympic Games is not just a personal achievement; it is a triumph for everyone who has a dream and wants to achieve it. “Always believe in yourselves and even if you are doubted, there is a little piece in our heart that knows we are capable of achieving it. This is my message, believe in yourself, in your hard work, in your technique, in your endurance, in your strength and in your will,” she points out.

Barrios stood out in Tokyo 2020 with an Olympic diploma after placing fifth. She is also a Pan American medalist in Lima 2019 and winner of multiple international medals: five Grand Slam medals and three in Grand Prix of the world judo circuit.

Written by Yanny Figueroa


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