Laia Talarn, 23, is the Spanish judo champion in the under 78 kg category and is preparing for the Olympic Games in Rio. Classification is limited to the first 14 in the world ranking and she is currently number 29. She has more than a year to find her way, but getting her ticket for Brazil is not the only goal that the best judoka in Spain is thinking about. Ensuring her future once her judoka career has finished is also a challenge that she is working on.
Laia applied for a grant from the newspapers El Periódico and Diario Sport and, from the hundreds of athletes under consideration, she was chosen. This year she is combining her career as a judoka with the Master in Sports Management at the Johan Cruyff Institute. “I finished last year’s ‘International Business Economics’ at Pompeu Fabra University and this year I’m doing the Master in Sports Management at the Cruyff Institute. I thought that to carry on with my life as an athlete, having an eight-hour job now would not be compatible with the training, and continuing my education was a good choice. I applied for a grant from the most important newspapers in Catalonia and got it. I think they had in mind both the sports curriculum together with the professional one and thought I was a good candidate”, explains Laia.
She is clear that while judo gives her great satisfaction it will not provide her with an income with which to live the rest of her life. When she retires, she will be able to look back with pride on having been a great ambassador for the sport, but what she wants to do is continue contributing from a management position.
“Athletes have much to contribute to the world of work and even more so when it is related to sport, because in the end we know first-hand the needs there are. I know that judo will not earn me a living and I’m preparing for when this is over. You shouldn’t neglect your studies. It is sometimes difficult because we have to get help from our fellow students, institutions and schools to try and manage the two things. But we must try by all means to do so because if it is already hard enough for young people to find work, qualified people, just imagine you finish your career and you haven’t studied anything – you’ll find it very hard. Managing the two things is difficult, but it is possible and it gives us a lot because, after finishing my sporting career, besides being a high-level athlete I will also be as well trained as other people of my age,” reflects Laia.
One of the needs she mentions is, very probably, that judo needs to become a sport with more media support. “Many people do judo, although it may not seem like it. I have a teacher who talks about ‘minoritised’ sports, not minority sports. I would say there are 110,000 judo licences in Spain, everyone knows someone who has a child who does or has done judo. I think it is a sport that in terms of values should be more present in society because it is very positive for everything, although it is true that it does not sell in the media and does not have representation. Athletes have to try to be a reference at the most local level and from there, when people start to notice us, make it bigger”.
To dedicate yourself to judo you need a good deal of strength, agility, technique, flexibility and intelligence, virtues that also guide Laia Talarn in her day-to-day, an exhausting routine that transpires between the tatami mat, the gym and classes. “Just as top athletes seek excellence in sport they also try to find it many areas of their lives. In the end, what we are trying to do is transfer the high performance sports lifestyle to our personal performance. Yes it’s what we do, we try to do the best we can, making every effort to achieve it, and we know that things are in our hands. In the same way that I know I can strive to be in the Olympics, I can also strive to complete this Master”.