Moncada in action last week in the Europa Cup. / RFEV

Ana Moncada, riding the Paris 2024 wave

The 20-year-old Estepona local, who finished sixth at the Europa Cup, says she is fully focused and is giving her all to go to the next Olympic Games

MARINA RIVAS

This year is unlike any other for a lot of athletes. Many of those who were on the brink of making it to the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games now have to switch on their atheltic chips for the upcoming 2024 Games in Paris. One of Malaga’s rising stars is mentally preparing to strive for olympic status and follow in the footsteps of Theresa Zabell. Estepona’s 20-year-old yachtswoman, Ana Moncada, has got her season rolling in a big way.

She was lurking in the shadows for a few months, but she never left her vessel aside. “We’ve been training flat out in the Canary Islands in winter and now we’re in Palma de Mallorca and we’re competing against other high-level fleets. I’m feeling good now, we’re reaching our goals every day and I’m focused on correcting mistakes,” she explained. She lives, trains and studies in Barcelona, although she spends very little time in the Catalan city. Mallorca is one sailing’s favourite enclaves in Spain and that was precisely where the 2022 EurILCA 6 Europa Cup (in which six-radial vessels compete) was held and where Moncada shone, finishing sixth in the general classification and the highest-placing Spaniard.

Impressing on the big stage

It’s great news when you take into account the tough competition that exists in Spain alone. As proof, you only need to see her performance at the ILCA 6 Spanish Cup, celebrated in Vigo last month. The Estepona local retained her second place in the national championship (a she finished runner up last year), while Canarian Martina Reina dominated and Cristina Pujol completed the podium in third. But as she says so herself, she feels more confident with every passing week. “I’ve improved a lot in every aspect, psychologically, physically... Psychology is very important in this sport, as the yachts float a lot, the speed of the vessels are very similar and tactics come into play. It’s all in your head, you need to be mentally strong,” she admitted.

Mental strength is especially important when faced with the first big test of the year and is already related to the Olympics. “The Europa Cup went well for me, it was a high-level regatta (boat race), with very good internationals who are training here, it was good practice for the Princess Sofía Trophy, which is the big objective we’ve now set out to achieve,” she said.

It’s an international event that will once again be held in the bay of Palma de Mallorca, between 4 and 9 April. And, why is it so important? The Estepona local has an answer: “It’s a World Championship and it already awards places for the Olympic team; also, the Mediterranean Games represtentative is also chosen. I hope I can qualify, I feel strong,” she said. Calmness and confidence in herself have always been two of her strong points.

Olympic team

Spain’s Olympic team won’t be officially closed after the event; what’s more, the first Olympic places will come into play in 2023 in The Hague (The Netherlands). However, finishing high up the table in the Princess Sofía Trophy will be important for the athletes on a personal level. That’s according to young Moncada, who is also studying Public Relations and Marketing: “A certain percent of the total participants, I think roughly 30%, end up making the team, even though it’s still open. Just being in this team is favourable because you can get better help, material, diets... It depends on your placements.”

And having a little extra in the budget department is never a bad thing in a sporting discipline that is a minority like this one. “If it wasn’t for grants, this sport wouldn’t give us money, to be honest,” she said, as she explained that she ebenfits from the Podium grant and another from the Andalusian Olympic Foundation. An Olympic dream that Moncada has been chasing for years, aware that, by age, the upcoming Games would be the first one for her to show off her real potential to the world. “This season I’m fully focused, I’m giving my all for the Paris Olympics, especially after coming so close [to making it] to Tokyo,” she admitted, though she remains as eager as ever.