He left his job in a multinational company to bet on a dream to fulfill in Tokyo. He and Sandra Sánchez are two of the safest medal options for Spain in a sport without an Olympic future. The local Kiyuna is his great rival for gold: “I compete in hostile territory”
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They will be like two fleeting medals, those of Damin Quintero and Sandra Snchez in kata, world referents of a sport that was born and died Olympic in Japan, its cradle. We have a responsibility with krate, pronounces this Malaguean born in Buenos Aires, a guy so sure of himself that one day he left his job as an aeronautical engineer in a multinational company to bet on a dream that will be fulfilled next August 6 at the Nippon. Tokyo Budokan.
At the age of 37, Quintero was world champion in 2014, is six times champion of Europe, number one in the ranking and favorite for gold with the Japanese Ryo Kiyuna. He competes in hostile territory, so the definitive absence of an audience in the stands is not so much drama for him. What seemed less correct to me is that only local spectators were allowed in, he says. Because his thing, although it is krate, does not consist of fighting – I never liked being touched on my face, he jokes. He is clear that to win a medal in kata, an imaginary combat has to impress: Make the jury’s hair stand on end, goose bumps. And that, since always, he is very good at. Put heart on the mat. That you are not a robot, that the explosive part is seen, but also the technique and the feeling. You have to convey feeling, he insists.
That is why it is impressive to see him train live, a hypnotic choreography, the sound of the karategui, the guttural cry of the kiais. Repeat, repeat and repeat until you reach perfection, because in three minutes their lives are going. It’s in my blood, it’s been so many years doing it … We have no margin for error. Because it is not a fight in which you can come back. A failure sends us home, tells about that state of ecstasy in which they seem to levitate. The level of mental concentration has to be excellent. Get away from everything. Judges, public, pavilion, event. It’s just you and the tatami. And you have to try to enjoy kata, that’s the key, he explains.
Even more pressure on them, who will no longer have the Paris 2024 mattress. And they well know the colossal difference between being an Olympic sport or not. The scholarships, the recognition, the exposure … There were Spanish world champions in anonymity. Jos Manuel Egea, Ivn Leal, scar Vzquez… They have been the ones who have opened the way. Because in the 90s there was already talk that krate was going to be Olympic and look what it has cost. The medal will be for all of them, he proclaims with the still nailed rage of the exclusion from the Games program.
Although, whatever happens in those four kata that he has burned to Japan -after a 15-day concentration in Sierra Nevada with his coach, Jess del Moral, part for another preview in the Japanese city of Fujinomiya-, there is no going back for Quintero. In addition to my career, I have two master’s degrees in sports management. The end is not far, you think, they are 20 years in the national team, you have to take a step aside. I already had my time as a calculation engineer and I would like to stay in the sport, because I think I have a lot to contribute, he admits.
During the pandemic, in addition to the uncertainty, the moments of madness and the difficulties in training – he managed in the basement of his house – Damin wasted no time. He added to his repertoire a new weapon, the Ohan dai. A new kata, which I have already tried in competition. I have been valued very well and I am comfortable with it. I take it on the list of four to use in Tokyo. This last week I have been polishing the other katas to surprise. I’m happy, he announces.
Quintero, to carry a computer well loaded with series in his suitcase, who celebrated Argentina’s triumph in the Copa America despite the fact that I feel 100% Spanish (arrived in Torremolinos with his family at the age of five), who is not a fan of the success of ‘Cobra Kai’ -In the old Krate Kid they do some more real kata-, and who drags his feet on the tatami before the competition, he is very clear about who will kata him in real life. It bothers me when people talk without knowing, the smart guys on social media. Politics, sports … You have to know how to accept criticism, but the haters who are going to hurt … he complains.