More than three years ago, Ruben Limardo was a fencer not many people in Venezuela would have recognised despite winning golds at the Pan American Games.
But that all changed after the London 2012 Olympics when the 30-year-old became a star in the South American nation, winning Venezuela’s first Olympic gold in 44 years.
Limardo caught up with Sport360 during the MKFA International Epee Cup in Dubai and spoke about his preparations for the Rio Games, his favourite footballer and why he travelled by public transport to his hotel after his Olympic triumph.
It’s been more than three years since you gained stardom in your country, winning gold at the London 2012 Games. Can you share your memories on that experience?
It was very good tournament for me and it was the second Olympic gold for my country Venezeula.
Since Francisco Rodriguez won gold in the 1968 Olympic Games, the country has been waiting a long time for another triumph. Thankfully, I ended their long wait.
I remember before each match, I was thinking of my mother because she died five years ago. And with her death happening two years before the London Olympic Games, it was very difficult for me and my family.
— fundrubenlimardo (@RubenLimardoFnd) December 13, 2015
At times, it was hard to focus during training because she was such a big figure in my life. It took me quite a lot of time to recover but I kept my focus and kept saying to myself that I can win the Olympic gold medal.
Obviously it was very hard as you would expect at the Olympic Games with so many strong fencers around the world battling it out for the three medals.
But having won gold, it really has changed my life. Before the Games, I had a much quieter life outside fencing but after the Olympics, everything changed.
I was on the TV, radio and newspapers and now I’m a big star in Venezuela. Many people now know fencing because of my victory and I hope it can attract more people to the sport.
You took the unusual step as an athlete to travel by public transport back to your hotel after your Olympic triumph.
This is Ruben. For me I don’t need no limousine, car or chauffeur to pick me up.
My family were in the ExCeL Centre to watch me win and they were getting the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) back so I decided to go with them.
For me, family is very important and it was important to celebrate with them because after all I am here because of them. I was a bit surprised by the attention I received.
I was the star on the carriage and people were taking pictures of me and the medal. It was a good experience for them as I’m sure they didn’t expect an Olympic medallist to be going home on a train.
The Rio Olympics are just a few months away. Do you feel any pressure going into the event as Olympic champion?
To be honest I do feel a little bit of pressure. I am the Olympic champion and I worked very hard during my career to reach that goal.
But I’m determined to do as much as I can to retain that medal. Of course, it will be hard but anything is possible.
What are your long-term goals you want to achieve?
I want to win the world championship. That is the one I’ve not won yet. I finished last year in second place and that is one I really want to win.
Are there any role models who you looked up to when you were young?
It was definitely Pavel Kolobkov (Russian fencer). He won many medals in the Olympic Games and World Championships in the Epee Individual.
He was really a good fencer at the peak of his time and when I was young, I wanted to become just like him. He’s won one Olympic gold, two silver and three bronze medals so I have a lot more to go if I want to win as many as him.
Just how did you get into fencing?
I started when I was seven years old. My uncle Ruperto Gascon was competing in Europe and so I used to watch him closely when he came back to Venezeula.
From watching him training that was where the interest grew. Gascon is now my coach and I’m now living in Poland as it makes sense as there are plenty of tournaments in Europe.
What other sports do you like?
I like baseball and I’m a big fan of Navegantes del Magallanes. I’m also a big fan of Barcelona and love watching them play. They play with such style and I hope they can win many trophies this season.
By far my favourite player is Messi, then Neymar and then Luis Suarez – in that order. That trio is unstoppable when they are at their best.
How impressed are you with the quality of fencing in the UAE, especially the MKFA Epee Cup?
While it’s the perfect opportunity for UAE nationals to gain as much competitive experience, I think the tournament has the potential to grow. I don’t think it will be too long before more world-class fencers come to compete in the UAE.
With the facilities they have, there’s every possibility UAE can host a top fencing competition, perhaps the World Cup or the World Championships.
The Red Bull Air Race World Championship will mark its ninth season in 2016 with two exciting new stops where fans are passionate about motorsports: the famed Lausitzring in Germany and the U.S. city of Indianapolis, Indiana, home to the Indianapolis 500 that’s renowned as part of the “Triple Crown” of auto racing.
In a season that spans seven countries over eight races, the enthralling motorsport series will also captivate spectators at stops that have already become favorites in the calendar.
It all kicks off on March 11/12, with the traditional season opener over the Arabian Gulf in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for the ninth straight time.
Next up, the action is back at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria – one of the highlight venues in the Formula One calendar on 23/24 April.
The high-speed, low-altitude race will then return to Japan, following the overwhelming success of the debut race in 2015 that sold out across the weekend.
The Championship then moves to Budapest, Hungary on July 16/17 where the racetrack’s 25-meter-high pylons are set up in the heart of the city, contrasting with the stunning backdrop of the Parliament Building, a location which has hosted seven races.
On August 13/14, the setting is Ascot in England, the renowned horse-racing track that has proven to be one of the all-time favorite stops in the history of the sport, before the series makes that breathlessly anticipated return to the Lausitzring on September 3/4, where fans will be able to savor a race in Germany for the first time since 2010 and cheer local Master Class pilot Matthias Dolderer.
Once again the final two races of the season will be in North America; first, on October 1/2, with the Red Bull Air Race premiere at Indianapolis, a sport-loving city in the country’s heartland where motorsport is king. The season finale happens on October 15/16 in Las Vegas, Nevada, where the new World Champion will be crowned at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“We look forward to bringing the race closer to even more fans in 2016, and it will be a privilege to share our sport at two more locations that are rich with motorsport history,” said Erich Wolf, General Manager of Red Bull Air Race GmbH.
“The pilots and teams are already hard at work on technical innovations and strategic plans, and the races at all eight stops promise to be faster and more competitive than ever. The year ahead should be thrilling for spectators and competitors alike.”
Lifeguards from across the UAE got an opportunity to test their skills and promote water and beach safety during the UAE National Lifeguard Championships, which took place at Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah.
Organised by Super Sports, this year’s event was the 10th anniversary of the Championships with COÉ- GA Sunwear partnering as sponsors for the third straight year. The championship saw nearly 130 lifeguards taking part either as individuals or in teams of four.
Teams from Wild Wadi, Aquaventure, Yas Waterworld, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi and Fairmont The Palm were among those who participated.
Following various challenges in areas such as leadership, emergency procedures, team work and physical fitness, Nasun Nayanajith from Le Meridien Al Aqah and Chantelle Du Plessis from Wild Wadi emerged triumphant in the individual men’s and women’s categories respectively, while both the men’s and women’s teams from Wild Wadi were crowned champions in the team events.
Commenting on the event, Maureen Hall, founder and CEO of COÉGA Sunwear said: “The beach and poolside are a very big part of the Dubai lifestyle, for both residents and visitors.
“Fortunately we have lifeguards who watch over us, keeping us out of harm’s way whilst we enjoy the sun and water.
“These dedicated men and women do a great job at keeping our beaches and pools a safe place to have fun, and so COÉGA Sunwear is proud to be a sponsor of this year’s UAE National Lifeguard Championships – an event built to support these hardworking people.”