Jefferson Perez Triumphs at Final Olympic Race
Twelve years ago a much younger Jefferson Perez took home Ecuador’s first Olympic gold medal when he won the men’s 20-kilometer race walk. Now, at 34 years of age, it seems that Perez has done his country proud again. Perez managed to claim the silver medal in this year’s Olympic men’s 20-kilometer race walk before announcing his retirement.
In 1996 when Jefferson Perez claimed gold for his homeland, he also claimed a small victory for fellow Latin Americans. Ever since then he has been hailed as a Latin American sports hero – despite the fact that he has never repeated his success at the Olympics. Now, however, it seems that age is catching up to the sports star. Perez clearly had his sights set on one last medal for Ecuador before he decided to give up on international race walking – the race walker collapsed shortly after crossing the finish line and had to be taken away on a stretcher. Fortunately it seems that he was only dehydrated and after a little medical treatment, he was back on his feet to claim his shiny new medal.
Perez lost the gold to Russian rival Valery Borchin who managed to finish just 14 seconds ahead of the veteran race walker. Borchin completed the race in 1 hour, 19 minutes, 1 second. It seems that he has some respect for Perez, since he sung his praises with the words: “Jefferson is the perfect athlete as regards racewalking.” The two were followed by Australian Jared Tallent who claimed the bronze medal. Far from being disappointed over his second-place finish, Perez is grateful for having had the chance to represent his country one last time. He said: “I thank God for being able to be at my fifth Olympics and to end my sporting career this way.” While he has given up on World Championships, World Cups and Olympic Games, Perez probably won’t give up race walking completely. He may complete locally or on a national level as he sees fit.
This remarkable athlete, who was born in Cuenca, has managed to make his way in life through athletics despite his humble origins. Even more amazing is the fact that the 1.67-meter-tall athlete has managed his own training over the past few years under the supervision of his doctor. The only other guides to his success over the years were his school coach Manuel Ortiz and Colombian coach Enrique Pena, who helped him at the Atlanta Games. Now it seems Jefferson Perez is getting ready to make his way in business. If he puts the same amount of determination and hard work into his secular career it will no doubt be every bit as successful as his sporting career was.