Nicaraguan female indigenous weightlifter shows resolve to overcome obstacles

By Wilder Perez R.

Managua, Oct 21 (EFE).- Sema Nancy Ludrick made history at this summer’s Tokyo Games when she became Nicaragua’s first-ever female indigenous Olympian.

The 23-year-old didn’t earn a spot on the podium but was the top Central American weightlifter in the 64-kilogram weight class with a total lift of 202 kg (87 kg in the snatch and 115 kg in the clean and jerk), an achievement she attributes to her innate physical strength but also her mental toughness.

Accustomed to hearing that weightlifting is not a sport for women, Ludrick said it is difficult for her to simultaneously perform the roles of mother, wife and high-performance athlete.

But she insists that the key for her is to always enter the gym at Managua’s Nicaraguan Institute of Sports with a clear mind.

“When I go into this gym, my mind shifts (focus) immediately … My goal is to train. I forget about things at home,” Ludrick said.

The weightlifter does not look like an indigenous woman at first glance but her Miskito accent is unmistakable in Nicaragua’s Pacific region, where the athlete relocated as a teenager against her father’s wishes.

“He said that’s work for men, not for women. And my family, my brothers, also told me, ‘you’re going to look like a man,'” she recalled.

The first medals she won in the Nicaraguan capital, an unprecedented achievement for a woman from the country’s Caribbean coast and a feat she accomplished just two weeks after setting foot in a gym, still did not convince her family.

It was only through the complicity of her older brother, Teofilo, that Ludrick, then 14, relocated to Managua at the insistence of her coach and a group of Cuban trainers in the capital.

Her athletic dreams, however, hit a major roadblock in 2016 when she became pregnant. She decided to abandon her sport and move with her husband (weightlifter Orlando Vasquez Jr.) to Puerto Cabezas – capital of the Miskito nation in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region – to pursue university studies.

But ahead of the 2017 Central American Games in Managua, Vasquez and her Cuban coaches convinced her to return to the gym.

“The Cubans told me that women come back stronger after delivering a child” and that the key to China’s success in weightlifting has been to train women after they have given birth, she said laughing.

After 10 months of hard work, Ludrick won two silver medals and a bronze at the Central American Games four years ago. Since then, she has been laser-focused on her goals and has even continued to train tirelessly after the Olympics.

Ludrick says she considers herself entirely indigenous even though her grandfather, German Ludick (without the “r”), was a German citizen who was living in northern Nicaragua’s Waspam community when the Sandinistas took power in 1979 and made the decision to become a naturalized Nicaraguan.

The indigenous athlete and her husband now have their sights set on a trip to Paris to compete in the 2024 Olympic Games.

Although only one guaranteed spot is available for Nicaragua in weightlifting, the couple have a plan: Ludrick will aim to qualify on her own merit and her husband will accept the invitation slot.

Ludrick insists the two athletes are their own biggest fans and says that mutual encouragement is ultimately her biggest source of strength. EFE


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