This is a small interview, or rather a pleasant informal chat, with my friend and great Olympic athlete, Lidia Valentin.

Lidia is currently the top athlete of Spanish weightlifting, and she is one of the most famous female faces in this sport. At the age of 27, Lidia has participated in two Olympic Games—Beijing 2008, where she placed fifth, and London 2012, where she placed fourth. She won the overall bronze medal at the 2007 European Championships, the silver in 2008, the bronze again in 2009 and 2011, and the silver yet again in 2012. She also took home one gold medal and three silver medals in the snatch, and one silver medal and four bronze medals in the clean and jerk.

I thank Lidia for her availability, and I hope that you will appreciate these words.

Antonio: Hi, Lidia. First, thanks for your time. I'd like to start at the beginning. How and why did you come into weightlifting?

Lidia: I started this sport at the age of 11 by accident. Before weightlifting, I practiced other sports such as basketball and athletics. One day, in the gym hall where I was going to train every day, the weightlifting coach fixed his eyes on me. He saw a lot of quality and a great talent for weightlifting in me. At first I did not pay much attention to him, but after his frequent invitations, I said to myself, "why not?" And it was at that moment that I realized how this sport was unknown. At first I was just very curious, but then with every passing day, my curiosity turned into passion. So I am.

Antonio: London 2012: What has this experience meant to you?

Lidia: London has a lot of meaning for me in my career because it gave me a chance to win an Olympic medal. There were four years of preparation to get to this event, so it was so important to me. I was in good condition—with the experience of Beijing 2008, but it was a fourth place finish so I'm a bit sour...but overall I'm satisfied.

Antonio: London 2012, Behind the Scenes: Is there a particular episode to tell us?

Lidia: Yeah, I have many unforgettable memories and anecdotes about London 2012. Those two weeks have been dreamlike—living every day with people from every part of the world, full of dreams and expectations like me. One of the things that I remember with more emotion, apart from the competition day, is the opening ceremony. It was something truly amazing, full of unforgettable moments.

Antonio: Lidia, want to tell us something about your training? How many times a week do you train? How long?

Lidia: I train every day of the week except Thursday afternoons, Saturday afternoons, and Sundays. Training sessions last about three hours in the morning and two and a half hours in the afternoon.

Antonio: What do you think about CrossFit? Tell me the truth!

Lidia: CrossFit is a new sport that I met recently. What I like about this sport is that it uses the two main movements of weightlifting. I think this is good to make people understand how hard it is—the sport of weightlifting.

Antonio: I train many women, and in all these years I realized one thing: women love to be strong. What do you think about it?

Lidia: I think it's great that women like to be and stay strong, not just in terms of aesthetics, which is very personal. I think it's important to stay healthy and play a sport at any age.

Antonio: What is your relationship with your strength? What does it mean to you to be a strong woman?

Lidia: The truth is that it drives me crazy to be a strong woman because it makes you different. I like the trained body for women—not only men can be strong. I love my athletic and trained body.

Antonio: When I train a woman, I am very demanding because I realize that women need more motivation than men. With that being said, what is your relationship with your coach?

Lidia: I don’t know why your level of need is greater when it comes to training a woman. I believe the sport is not a matter of gender. The relationship with my coach is very good. We have been working together for many years now, preparing for training and competition. I think it’s important to have a good environment and a good feeling between the two in order to achieve all your goals.

Antonio: Do you think, in the sport of weightlifting, that there is a sexist environment or not?

Lidia: Around me, at least as far as what I feel, I don’t see prejudice, and I have never felt discriminated against for being a woman.

Antonio: What competition are you currently preparing for?

Lidia: The most important competitions in 2013 are the European Championships, the Mediterranean Games, and the World Championships. Right now I'm preparing for the European Championship that's to be held in April.

Antonio: Tell me something about Lidia Valentin outside of the gym.

Lidia: Lidia Valentin outside of the gym…I consider myself a very outgoing and cheerful woman. With the ideas clear enough, I have the habits of a person of my age—I like being with my loved ones when I can and when workouts allow me to do this. I love my family and I’m very addicted to having good times with them.

Antonio: We are at the end. First, as a good Italian, I must compliment you for your beauty. Second, can you make a dedication to all the women who train to become stronger and even to your favorite interviewer?

Lidia: I address all those women who love the sport like me: Fight for everything you want because with work and dedication you can reach all of your goals. The sport will teach true values and will make you a better person. And don’t ever leave your dreams. A greeting and a big kiss to my fantastic interviewer and to all of the elitefts™ readers.

Antonio: Thank you so much, Lidia.

For many people, it is sometimes challenging to realize the habits and dreams of true competitive athletes beyond what is seen on the TV. And in the world of strength training, where one is at risk of being constantly blinded by the latest trends, having real athletes, like Lidia, as reference models can be the perfect choice.