Adriana Cerezo and Hugo G. de Oliveira

The Goal: Paris. Episode 2

01/27/2023 · By Redacción TAB
Adriana Cerezo (taekwondo) and Hugo G. de Oliveira (swimming) chatting

To understand their passion for taekwondo and swimming, we must look back, specifically at a grandfather who watched martial arts films with his granddaughter, and to a father who taught his son to swim at the tender age of one. Today, Adriana Cerezo and Hugo González de Oliveira are two big names in Spanish sport who have their sights set on Paris, where they’ll go with a single goal: winning a medal.

Adriana Cerezo (Alcalá de Henares, 2003) and Hugo González de Oliveira (Palma de Mallorca, 1999) are the future, but also the present, of Spanish sport. This taekwondo athlete already has an Olympic medal, the silver she won in Tokyo; while this swimmer, with two Games behind him, came 6th in the 100 metres backstroke. So, when they chat about Paris after the Iberia Talento a bordo Team photo shoot, both their gazes reflect excitement, ambition, and responsibility. Adriana, also known as La Niña Maravilla (Wonder Girl), starts: “The Olympics are amazing and I’m so excited about going to Paris. First, I want to win the World or European Championships, but it’s a goal I’ve set myself. We’re all in.” And Hugo concludes: “The Games fill our everyday lives with motivation.” Both are the protagonists of the second episode of The Goal: Paris, a series where members of the Iberia Talento a bordo Team share their hopes and dreams for the next Olympic Games.

But getting to Paris is no easy feat. You just need to spend one day with Adriana and Hugo to see this. The swimmer gets up at 5 a.m. to dive into the pool at 6 a.m. After two hours doing sets, Hugo goes to the gym to complete his morning workout during an hour and a half. But his sacrifice doesn’t end there. In the afternoon, two more hours in the pool await him. “Water is like another universe to me. It’s the only place where I can connect with myself and feel like myself.” His routine in the United States, where he spends extended periods of time isn’t very different. In 2022, he won 400 yards individual medley competing for the University of California at the NCAA university championships. And he makes the most of his spare time by studying. Something Adriana also does. At the slightest chance, the taekwondo athlete pulls out her Criminalistics notes —”it gets easily confused with Criminology, but they’re not the same”, she warns us— to go over them. Like Hugo, she also trains morning and afternoon. “For me, training is the best moment of the day. I love to feel exhausted and suffer from training. It’s what I like and enjoy the most.”

“Water is like another universe to me. It’s the only place where I can connect with myself and feel like myself” — Hugo G. de Oliveira

The passion for taekwondo and swimming that Adriana and Hugo convey is essential for their day-to-day lives. But where does it come from? In Adriana’s case, we find the answer in her grandfather: “When I was little I used to watch Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan films with my grandfather and I loved them: the shouting, the jumping, the kimonos... I happened to end up doing taekwondo, but I could’ve easily ended up doing any other martial art: karate or judo, for example.” In fact, she admits she practiced other sports beforehand: “I did figure skating, artistic gymnastics... All sorts except for swimming (laughs).” Hugo, on his part, blames his parents: “I started swimming because my mother was afraid that I’d drown. My parents bought a house with a small swimming pool, and I was probably one year old, so I started following my father while he swam.” A father who instilled passion for sports in all his children (Hugo isn’t the only swimmer): “My father did sailing, fencing, swimming... I don’t know if there are any sports he hasn’t practiced, and he’s the reason my siblings and I started.” Today, Hugo still plays friendly games of basketball with his father whenever he gets the chance.

From shouting to silence
Hugo trains underwater, in silence. Meanwhile Adriana does so surrounded by shouting and the atmosphere at her gym is truly deafening: “The intensity you feel as soon as you walk in the door with everyone shouting is really striking. I’m aware that I shout because I’ve heard myself on video, but I’m not sure at which point in my training I start shouting.” Something that’s really different to what Hugo feels during his training sessions: “There’s something natural about water, and when you dive in there’s a silence where there’s just you, your body, and your feelings. It helps me to control my thoughts quite a lot, to see everything with perspective and to face things differently.” Funnily enough, although perhaps we should say inevitably, the sports they practice affect how each of them are: Hugo is calmer and Adriana is more restless.

“I don’t like to analyse my opponent. I think it all depends more on myself, if I’m having a good day, I don’t mind one or another” — Adriana Cerezo

Another aspect that sets them apart is that Hugo competes against the stopwatch, against himself. While Adriana fights against other people, opponents that, she admits, don’t keep her up at night: “I watch lots of taekwondo videos, but I don’t like to analyse my opponent. I think it all depends more on myself, if I’m having a good day, I don’t mind one or another.” In taekwondo, as well as your opponent, other variables also come into play: “It’s a sport where the referee, the electronic system, the audience... and strategy also play their part.” From the outside, swimming seems like one of the loneliest sports there is. Something Hugo touches on: “Swimming is an individual sport when it comes to competing, but many swimmers will agree with me that we couldn’t achieve anything individually. Maintaining your levels of motivation and concentration while training alone is really hard, so, in a way, it’s also a team sport.”

Adriana and Hugo also give us their particular view on talent, which Iberia has brought together with the Iberia Talento a bordo Team. When faced with the eternal dilemma of whether talent is born or made, Hugo chooses the first option: “Talent is something that you’re naturally good at. It’s a privilege, something you have inside of you and that you can’t explain.” Adriana, on her part, associates talent to excellence: “I believe that talent is someone’s ability to be excellent at something and goes beyond having a special skill.” Beyond words, if there’s something Adriana and Hugo have plenty of it’s talent, and they’ll prove it in Paris, her on the tatami and him in the swimming pool, places that mean joy to them.