This award belongs to all of us
The winner of the 2022 IWGA Athlete of the Year voting was Valeria Cardenas (23). The title went to the Colombian Ultimate Frisbee player after a thrilling finish in the last 24 hours. In an interview, the bronze medalist at The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, USA, says that even winning a “single award” is a team effort.
What is the reward for you?
Valeria Cardenas: I think it’s a recognition of all the hard work and sacrifices I’ve had to make to get where I am. I am proud of what I have achieved and what I want to achieve in my career. I feel happiness and gratitude to the people who contributed to making this dream come true. And it’s not just my reward. I think this title belongs to all of us who love this beautiful sport.
How did you survive the exciting last hours?
Valeria Cardenas: I was very nervous about what was going on. I wasn’t sure if I could do it and we didn’t know if it was possible. However, thanks to the support of many people, especially my sister Manuela, I finished first. It was amazing to feel people so close to me, to see love and affection. The fact that the Ultimate community supported me in such an amazing way was really special. I cannot emphasize it often enough: this award belongs to all of us.
How does it feel to win a “single award” as a team player?
Valeria Cardenas: For me, it’s not so much a single award, because this victory was achieved thanks to the effort of the whole team. My teammates helped me make it possible because it’s hard to find players who make you better, but I have them and that’s helped me achieve very good results on the pitch. So it wasn’t “me” who won; “we” are the Athlete of the Year. To be able to say this makes me really grateful.
How did family, friends and fellow athletes react?
Valeria Cardenas: In the last minutes of voting, everyone in my team was sending updates via WhatsApp chat, and then they also felt that this victory was theirs. As for my family, they were more nervous than me, especially my sister Manuela who has always been so close to me.
Who was the first to congratulate you?
Valeria Cardenas: My mom called me crying because she couldn’t be happier. She also said so many kind words that I could hardly hold back my tears. Then came a lot of messages from people in my sport and my family who were very happy and proud of this recognition. Also, my friends called me in a group chat. Unfortunately my cell phone was disconnected and I couldn’t answer.
How did you get fans to support you?
Valeria Cardenas: My plan was to post stories on Instagram telling people what this award is all about. To be honest, my sister Manuela helped me in everything to achieve this recognition. She wrote to famous people in Colombia to post stories and submit voting posts. This is how we reached a larger audience. Also, everyone at Ultimate has been following my progress very closely and has always supported us in everything we did. This was no exception, so I reiterate that this achievement is everyone’s share as I’ve seen every single person in my sport post stories on Instagram and work to help me achieve this dream with my hashtag #seVALEsoñar.
What memories do you have of The World Games 2022?
Valeria Cardenas: I have many memories of The World Games because I lived them 100 percent. I like to remember that every game we played, we said the prayer that Moore taught us, and that helped me go on the court with more confidence. I also think a lot about the moment when we beat Germany and won the bronze medal.
Where do you keep your bronze medal?
Valeria Cardenas: I have it hanging on the wall in my room together with the TWG 2017 medal. In Wroc?aw we won the silver medal after the match against the USA in the final.
You are very famous for your club performances. What was it like competing for Colombia, what did it mean to you?
Valeria Cardenas: Pride and Resilience. Because wearing the colors of my country and representing it abroad is what I always dreamed of as a child and I am proud to be able to do it now as an adult. Resilience, because to get into the team, I had to work hard, fight for a place and have contact with everyone on the pitch. I did it thanks to my determination and dedication. The competition for Colombia was amazing because first of all you feel like a professional player. Everything was sponsored, and everything was at your fingertips. Also, interacting with different people on my team, meeting them and making friends. This makes it unique. You feel the support of the whole country, which has the same dream that we want to achieve together. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to win the 2022 tournament, so we want to reach that ultimate goal in China in 2025.
What are your goals for this year?
Valeria Cardenas: To ensure the continuity of my Ultimate performances, to win all the tournaments I plan to enter and to contribute as my best version on my teams. I want to be sponsored by the Colombian Ministry of Sports to help my family move forward.
And for the time after?
Valeria Cardenas: I want to be an inspiration to young people and people who play Ultimate and like sports in general. I want to continue to be an amazing athlete, improve my skills to be better in all positions on the pitch and become a better leader on the pitch.
Have you checked where Chengdu, the host of TWG 2025, is located on the map?
Valeria Cardenas: Yes, and I’m happy to be at the next edition of The World Games. I will work harder to get gold!
World games is a multi-sport event organized every four years by the International World Games Association, organized with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The 2022 World Games took place in Birmingham, Alabama, USA from July 7-17, 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and 100 countries participated in the Games. The 12th edition of The World Games will be held in Chengdu, CHN in 2025.