Already successful in the women’s 57 kilogramme category, Iraoui made the difficult decision to come down a weight and it worked out perfectly – she became African champion for the first time in May of this year when she won the gold medal in the 52 kilogramme category in Dakar, Senegal.
Like many athletes, Iraoui has not only had to battle form and fitness – and meet the qualification criteria for the Tokyo Games – she has had to cope with lockdown restrictions and isolation from coaches and fellow judoka because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We suffered too much from stress, from the closing of the gymnasiums,” Iraoui told SNTV. “We were used to always training and participating in competitions and suddenly we found ourselves obliged to stay at home. Above all we had no idea about the future and what we were going to do, the dream that we have been working on for four years, we had no idea if we would realise it or not, we did not know what would happen in the future.”
Without being able to practice a sport where athletes have to put themselves up against a physical opponent, Iraoui had to rely on her own mental strength, communicate with her coaches remotely and visualise the technique and flexibility of a top-level judoka.
That she was able to come out of lockdown and achieve the best competition result of her career in May is a testament to her fortitude and now Iraoui wants to pass on some of her talents to the judoka of the future.
“There are some very bad ideas saying that Judo is not for women or not good for them,” she said. “That is why for us, this is a challenge to show that women are able to practice this sport. Our role is to set an example and give inspiration to all women who want to do this sport.”