Jefferson Perez - The One and Only, Part 4

Some countries have won just one single gold medal in their Olympic history. We portray them in our series "The One and Only". One of them: Ecuador. 

Jefferson Perez is just 1.67 meters tall, but to his countrymen, he is the greatest. On the early morning of Friday, July 26th, 1996, Perez became the first and to date only Olympic champion from Ecuador, winning the 20 kilometers race walk at the Atlanta Summer Games (picture: iaaf.org).

Perez had dominated the race from the beginning, but it came at a high prize. "The shoe on my left foot was split in half and almost without a sole", Perez remembered 20 years later in an interview with Ecuadorian daily El Comercio. One kilometer away from the finish line, Perez finally got away from Russian Ilya Markov and Mexican Bernardo Segura and won the Gold by a margin of nine and 16 seconds.

When Perez entered the stadium, "It was a spiritual moment, I was in deep silence. I am Catholic and at the stadium gate I imagined Christ." At the same time, Ecuador was anything but silent. The whole country erupted with joy over her first ever Olympic Gold.

The career of Jefferson Perez had seen a lot of ups and downs and so it went on after Atlanta. At age 22, he was rather young for a race walker to become an Olympic champion. Perez had learned a lot from the Mexican race walkers and their coaches when he went to the country thanks to a scholarship in 1989. He won his first major international title at the 1995 Pan American Games in Mar del Plata. After this triumph, Perez wanted to build a new house for his mother in his hometown of Cuenca. "All the resources that came in, I gave for the construction. I had no money left to eat, and at the World Athletics Championships in Gothenburg, I was penultimate, because there were no resources left for my preparation."

With the status of a new national hero, Perez was able to vindicate his status as a world class race walker for years to come after 1996. From 2003 to 2007, he won three consecutive World Championships in Paris, Helsinki, and Osaka. He added another Olympic silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Games before retiring. His autobiography, "Nardo y los zapatitos de oro" ("Nardo and the Golden Shoes"), written by journalist Sandra López in 2009, sold over ten thousand copies. Today, Perez spends most of his time raising money for his foundation (picture: alchetron.com).

Keine Kommentare:

Kommentar veröffentlichen