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“My jumps are unique in the world” | Talent on board

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Ray Zapata


As a child, when he still lived in Santo Domingo, Ray Zapata (Dominican Republic, 30 years old) was a whirlwind who jumped between the furniture in his house and climbed trees at the slightest carelessness. To the relief of his mother, that boy found in gymnastics a sport with which to let off steam: “I was able to stop all that adrenaline I had. My mother was delighted that, when I got home, I was exhausted,” she says with a laugh in the interview that heads this article, recorded at the Centro de Alto Rendimiento Deportivo in Madrid.

Successor and pupil of the two-time Olympic champion Gervasio Deferr, Zapata won the silver medal on floor at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 – postponed for a year as a result of the pandemic – a metal that placed him as a benchmark in national gymnastics and changed him. life: “A few months earlier my daughter Olympia had been born. She could be sure that she would lack for nothing. “It was a joy,” he explains in this new installment of Talent on board, the project promoted by Iberia to make Spanish talent visible and valued. Before him now is Paris, next summer: “There is a difference between the Ray from Tokyo and the Ray who goes to Paris. He is a more experienced gymnast, more relaxed in quotes. The experience has toughened me. And I have learned to fully enjoy without thinking so much about the objectives,” he summarizes.

In the image, taken from a press clipping, a teenager Ray Zapata, first from the right, poses with several teammates at the Spanish Artistic Gymnastics Base Championship, where he won the floor test. Photo: COURTED RAY ZAPATA

The Spanish gymnast, during his performance in the floor event at the Tokyo Olympics, held in 2021. Photo: CEDIDA RFEG

Zapata poses with the silver medal won in Tokyo in the floor category. Photo: CEDIDA RFEG

The gymnast with his wife and Olympia, the eldest of his two children, on vacation last summer. Photo: COURTED RAY ZAPATA

The gymnast is the author of two jumps for which few competitors are authorized and which, in fact, have been baptized with his last name: Zapata I and II, elements of great complexity that, according to him, so far no one has managed to imitate : “I said that no one was going to do Zapata II for at least five years. For now we have been doing it for three years and I have not seen anyone trying it,” he details. In just two seconds his body lifts off the ground, spins like a top and lands harmoniously on his feet. Zapata takes the edge off: “Before I jump I think about hitting it all the way up, but once I’m in the air I think about not leaving the track, about not falling on my face, about not falling on my ass…,” he laughs. again.

Talent, the Spanish understands, is an innate ability that requires sacrifice and a lot of effort. And the head is as important as the body. “They have to be totally connected. If you are going to do a double somersault and your head says no, no matter how much physique you have, it will not work out,” he closes.

Ray Zapata

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