Nicaragua

Sayra Laguna: “I had to Reinvent Myself”

She was frozen out of Nicaragua’s official sports environment because of her critical position on the Ortega government. The former Central American judo champion has had to reinvent herself amid the socio-political crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. Now she’s an online personal trainer and a self-defense instructor.

Only eight months ago, Laguna was sleeping on the ground in front of the Honduran-Guatemalan border. She was eating what charitable organizations provided, together with a group of Nicaraguans who were also stranded by the pandemic. At that time, the Nicaraguan government had blocked its citizens from returning.

Sayra Laguna however, is used to overcoming difficulties. Considered Nicaragua’s “Best Amateur Athlete of 2017”, she again rose to the challenge.

“I came back with empty pockets, so I had to reinvent myself. I had to figure out what business to get into, how to develop some new venture in the “fitness” field. Something that involved physical conditioning, nutrition and self-defense,” she told reporters. Laguna won a gold medal in the 2018 Pan-American Sambo* Championships, held in Acapulco, Mexico.

From her home, Sayra Laguna offers personalized attention to her clients, via videocalls that last an hour and 20 minutes.

“I send those interested five tools: a yoga ball, a mat, barbells, bands for the legs, cones and bows. The specifics depend on the client’s economic situation,” she explained.

“I demonstrate the exercises, then they repeat. I keep count for them – it’s easy. Some have a diet plan, others don’t. I work on that with a friend of mine who’s a nutritionist.”

Advantages of online training

One of the advantages of online training is that people can work on their own time.  Some of Laguna’s clients take advantage of their rest time to advance on things they couldn’t do in a gymnasium.

Laguna has also trained advanced athletes from neighboring countries. She hopes to begin training people in Europe soon.

“I feel pretty positive and super motivated. I’m creating a Facebook page. Also, I see a positive response from people who want to make a change and implement home training,” she emphasized.

Laguna didn’t really expect to find herself forced so soon to pursue her dream. She’d thought of starting her own business as a long-term plan. But when she returned to Nicaragua, she looked for work in different companies, with no luck.

Broad professional experience

Finding work should be a sure bet for someone who graduated with a double major: Marketing and Business Administration. She’s had experience organizing national events, and is also known for her recent athletic successes.

Unfortunately for Laguna, finding work has been impossible. This is due to the politically polarized atmosphere in Nicaragua since the 2018 social explosion and the local economic crisis.

“I’ve been an athlete who’s continued denouncing everything that happened to me,” she noted. “I imagine that’s where the issue [her employment rejections] stems from, rather than any lack of training and competitiveness. The news [of her disagreements with the government] has circulated a little, and maybe they don’t want to be affected.”

Sayra Laguna was the best judoka in Central America. She’s very admired and has received a lot of honors. She was judged number one in feminine Sambo, and was recognized as “Nicaragua’s Amateur Athlete of the Year” in 2017. Still, the authorities won’t forgive her public denunciations. She dedicated the medal she won at the 2018 Pan-American Sambo Championship Games “to God and the dead”. “The dead” referred to the youth killed in the 2018 antigovernment protests in her country.

Nonetheless, she’s content with what she’s doing, including the at-home self-defense classes. She’ll soon have a YouTube channel and an Instagram account.  She’ll use these to share advice on how to stay in shape, or to defend yourself from physical attacks.

For now, the political situation has caused her to retire from her sporting career. However, she’s enjoying this new stage of her life. Her new challenge is combining her knowledge of judo, sambo, marketing and administration – but this time, in her own business.

*Sambo, according to Wikipedia, is: “a Soviet martial art, a combat sport, and a recognized style of amateur wrestling.” 

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