"My whole life I've liked challenges,” said Menezes. -Photo by AFP

LONDON: Olympic judo champion Sarah Menezes revealed on Sunday that her parents tried to stop her from taking up the sport which they believed was for men only.

The 22-year-old from Brazil became the first woman from her country to win an Olympic judo gold before admitting that she had to overcome a series of barriers to succeed.

“When I started judo my parents said it was a sport for men. My whole life I've liked challenges,” said Menezes.

“The truth is the major problem was my studies so I came to an agreement with them. In order to continue in the sport I had to do well in my studies.”

Despite their initial objections, her parents came to appreciate her skills.

“When I started to travel (to competitions) my parents realised I had talent,” added Menezes.

It was a good decision as it set the amiable under-48kg fighter on the path to fame.

Having won bronze in the previous two years at the world championships, she finally ascended the top step of the podium in London.

And at just 22 years of age, there may be much more to come from the world number three and twice former world junior champion.

Earlier this year she also won her first Grand Slam event in Moscow.

And now she says the increased confidence success has brought to Brazilian women over the last few years will help them – and indeed her – in the future.

She expects her gold medal to become the first of many for her country's women.

“It's really very, very important because it took many years to happen,” she said.

“Now I hope that my medal can open up the way for many more. What's changed is that we've developed the belief that we can win because everyone is strong.

“We've stopped doubting ourselves and now we know we can beat anyone, and that's the key.”

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