How Guatemala’s Olympic medal inspired a generation of Racewalkers | The Power of One

How Guatemala’s Olympic medal inspired a generation of Racewalkers | The Power of One

ORIGINAL SERIES) I bought my family
a TV as a gift. And then I told them that I’m bringing them this
TV and on this TV, you’ll see me win
the first Olympic medal for Guatemala. I gave the TV to my
dad and he said, “I promise you that
I will take it “out of the box when
you will compete.” I had studied the
rest of the competitors and I saw that
physically they could win a medal
but mentally, in terms of that
spirit that an athlete needs to win a medal,
they were lacking. That was what I had,
and I’ve had it since I was a kid. I have a great
responsibility with 16 million Guatemalans, who are keeping
an eye on what Erick Barrondo does. Olympic medallists are
the only ones who are never going
to be ex-medallists. World champions today
are champions, tomorrow they become
ex-world champions. An Olympic medallist
is the only one who climbs up to the Olympus
and stays there for ever. (THE POWER OF ONE) (GUATEMALA.
CHASING THE SUN) Alta Verapaz is one
of the regions with the largest
green areas. People make
a living growing coffee, cardamom, pepper. Chiyuc is my home,
the place where I feel at peace, where
I am Erick Barrondo, but people look
at me more like the little boy
who never left, or who had to leave
to change the life of his family. (CHIYUC, GUATEMALA) My childhood was
a little unusual. It was a childhood
where a child’s first toy was a work tool. And I grew up working. We didn’t let him
have the life we had. When we were kids,
we spent time playing or killing birds.
But not him. He lived in another world. He remains me a lot.
Once, I told him, “I’m going to buy
you a toy car.” He was happy.
But I gave him a machete to work. I grabbed my machete
and went to work. And when I had the
money to buy the toy car, I thought
I’d better buy a shirt because I barely have one.
It helped us value things. Today it serves us well. We were really, really poor. We’ve worked very hard. And like I always told them,
if I work, it’s to help them
be somebody in life. We’ve had a very hard life. But based on these hard knocks in life, I tell you,
little by little you learned to be a great man. I have my little
altar and I kneel down and ask God to watch over me. I always repeat, “Thank you for
your blessings. “You gave to us
with both hands full. “And I always ask
you to watch “over my son,
wherever he is. “Since he won, you changed “our life overnight.” (GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA) Guatemala is a
third-world country with very difficult
problems in health and education.
A country with health and education
is a country with a great deal of
economic and social development.
Undoubtedly, this has affected our population. The few opportunities
to study means that very young
children have to work. Therefore, they don’t have
any opportunity to study. It’s a complicated circle
that does not allow Guatemala to excel
on an economic level. In Guatemala,
soccer is king. It’s the sport that
everyone is crazy about. You will find people
playing everywhere, no matter where you look, from little children
to older kids. Whenever they have
a free moment, they play. It is the sport
that appeals to the masses. Herrera, Herrera
hits the ball! How it is going
on Antigua! Antigua is going
to be champion and we’re going to
celebrate it here. Come on, Antigua! A few years ago,
there was a medallist with heart who put the name
of Guatemala on top. Here, in the colonial
city of Antigua, we want to show the support that we still give to our
Olympic champion Erick Barrondo! A big round of applause! When I was 10 years old, I began to work
as a gardener. At 11, I started
selling newspapers on the streets of Quiche. When I turned 17, I began to
work in a bakery. This was precisely
when Erick crossed the finish line,
I remember that I was walking through the market it was a party,
like a fair in Quiche. Raymundo lives
right next to me. Quiche is the closest
village to Alta Verapaz. And his story is
summed up very well. He went from
selling newspapers to being in the newspaper. There had already
been a lot of race walkers before.
And one common characteristic of Guatemalan
race walkers has been that they come from families with
limited resources. This has been
a motivation to me. I wanted to
provide for my family, and you find that in sports,
if you work for it, you can provide
for your family. Many people didn’t
believe that someone from such a
poor village like San Cristobal
Verapaz could achieve something so
important on an international level. It was a totally
unknown area. People only knew about the region because
later there was a hillside known
as Los Chorros that unfortunately
collapsed and 40 people
died. The best athletes in
Guatemala come from Alta Verapaz region. Perhaps
due to its topography and the hardships we have
endured. Life is hard but it prepares us for
what will come in the future. It prepared
me for what I am today. My sports career began when I was six years old,
when I won a doll that cried.
My mum did not have a lot of
money and I didn’t have a doll that
cried. They held an event at
school and I won, competing against
tall athletes. And me at my height.
I was born little and I’m still little.
I’m 1.42 m (4ft 8in) tall. It was the
same neediness that motivated me
to keep going in my sports career.
I began to compete and I ran for
16 years representing Guatemala,
always running barefoot. I had my two
boys and that’s when I stopped
participating. And suddenly Erick
Barrondo appears, he comes to compete
at Injud stadium. He comes to train
here with Jorge Coy. Then Jorge talked
to him about me, “If Herlinda Xol
could do it, “why can’t you do it?” (JORGE COY, RACE WALK COACH) I’ve been an
athletics coach for 30 years. Many times Verapaz stadium was
completely empty. 8 or 10 years ago, only a couple of people were training with me. But it all changed. (LONDON 2012.
RACE WALK MEN. 20KM) I maybe anticipated
the medal a bit. And I started to sleep
like an Olympic medallist. To train like an
Olympic medallist. To eat like an
Olympic medallist. And to think like
an Olympic medallist. Live here
Guatemalan TV! Historic moment! The most important
moment of our history not only in sports! As the competition went by, I saw great competitors. I always listened
to them breathe. They looked at me.
Few knew me. I was seeing who
were going to be the strongest.
I studied them. And I was monitoring
everything, feeling more and more
sure of what I could do. Until a group of
5 athletes formed. There were 5 of us fighting for 3 medals. And then a Chinese
athlete started to pull away from the
competition. I, however, preferred to be
a bit cautious, to stay a little behind. The Russian
athlete fell down. And honestly,
right then, instead of saying,
“Ooh, there’s one less, “the medal is
more sure for me now,” the first thing that
popped into my head was,
“Will he be OK?” When I turned around,
I tried to see him and I saw the ambulance
picking him up. I was first worried about
his physical condition. It never occurred to
me that it was one less athlete and
that ensured me a medal. Guatemala pay attention! We are finishing
in second place! And then there
were 4 of us fighting for 3 medals.
And that’s when I told myself,
“I can do this “This is why I’m here…”
It was down to the last lap. The bell rings.
And I was saying to me, “I am in the second place.
we’re close to the medal.” I remember that every
step I took, I wanted to finish fast, but that
last lap would not end, just would not end.
And I turned around to see if any athlete
were coming up from behind and
I saw them on the screen and they
seemed very close. I wanted to go faster,
but the same emotion made me feel
like I wasn’t going fast enough
or simply not going. And when there
were 200 metres left to cross the finish line,
Olympic champion came in. I turned to see if anyone
was coming from behind. No one was coming.
I slowed down a bit. I ended up crossing
the line and in spite of being prepared
for it, it was it was very hard for me
to believe. Erick Barrondo
winning for Guatemala’s first Olympic medal
in our history! Come on, come on! Three, four, five… Change! After winning the
Olympic medal, someone who
didn’t even know how to run
began to run and jog. That was my
personal motivation, and now I’m working
as a trainer for the team Little Jade Feet. Keep your eyes up!
That’s it! It’s like it were
coming from the hill up there!
That’s it! Your arm movement!
Concentrate! Careful! Careful! Come on, Angela,
don’t fall behind! Don’t let him go! Otherwise you
fall far behind! We started with
4 young people and now in April,
it will be 8 years since the team
was founded. It’s no longer just 4,
there are 70 young people that we are
seeing in the village, not only from
the village, they come from town,
from distant communities. They all want to
participate, but now since the events
are all about resources, everything is
registration fees, money, shoes,
pure water. When they finish,
I tell them, “Here is your pure
water, kids, because “before Herlinda Xol
had to train, “to go from
here to Coban, “run 21 kilometres
without any bag of pure water”. I don’t
want my students to go through that. Training without pure
water is suffering. Erick and the
Olympic medal changed the
young people of Guatemala.
Coban is the city of athletics. I call this stadium
in Verapaz Guatemala’s
cathedral of athletics. That’s it! Very
good, very good, very good!
Don’t lean forward like that, Xavi.
That’s your mistake. Alta Verapaz is
now the seed of race walking.
Each trainer has his own group
of race walkers and athletics. Enjoy the practice, kids! I don’t want you
to be stressed out! As trainers here,
we realised that we have
race walkers. In Coban, if we
go with Jorge Coy, there are
race walkers. If we go with
Evelyn Nunez, here are race walkers. Like I say to
motivate my kids, I have a group of
15 race walkers in different categories,
who have to struggle to make it.
It doesn’t matter how it’s done,
as long as you find the way to
achieve things. If you have the
desire and a goal, everything is possible. (BEIJING 2008.
RACE WALK WOMEN – 20KM) Since I was a little girl,
I dreamed about going to the Olympic Games. I said, “Someday
I have to go to the “Olympic Games.
It doesn’t matter how, “but I’m going
to get there”. Until finally,
thank God, I did it. That’s why I work.
For the love of something I enjoy. For the love of what
you’ve learned and what you bring to it. So that the rest learn
and reach the point they need to
reach, to where Erick got to
and even further. My personal goal
for young people is to do sports, do athletics,
do race walking. That’s what we want. That’s what they tell me. They want to be
like Barrondo and Herlinda Xol. We pray God that
they do sports. Your heel! Your heel! Your arm movement!
Your arm movement! Don’t cross them! Come on, come on! So many young
people want to be like Erick Barrondo.
They come here to me and say, “I want to be
a race walker, “like Erick Barrondo.” It is enormously fulfilling.
It makes me proud. I’m a millionaire.
Not in terms of money, but in satisfaction. That’s it! That’s
where I want them. You can do it, kids!
You can do it! I think that we
do open doors. We show that
when you want to do something,
when you have goals, to do it,
you eventually do it. That was the example
of Erick Barrondo. After winning the medal, like 3 days later,
he called me. I congratulated
him on the medal. I told him, “You really
did it. We tried, “but we couldn’t,
but we did get to “represent Guatemala.” They’re going to do that! Don’t forget the technique! And he answered me,
“No, Herlinda. “Thank you for
opening doors. “You set the example.
You were able to “do it. Humbly,
modestly, barefoot. “And I followed
in your footsteps “to be an athlete.” Relax, 1, 2, 3! On a sports level,
this medal has shown Guatemalans that
where there’s a will, there’s a way.
It gave a new perspective about
walking race and athletics. It was a phenomenon,
you saw children walking in the
street, saying, “I’m going to beat you.”
“No, me, “I’m Erick Barrondo.”
And now they practice this sport. Because of the
Olympic medal, think many children have realised that sports
are the door to get out of poverty,
maybe not to become rich, but to
have stability and an opportunity to
have a better life. Soccer is very
popular in Guatemala. But the day the
Olympic medal was won, the national sport
took a complete turn. The impact of the
Olympic medal had has made
the country turn to practising sports. For me, Erick is an
extraordinary athlete, an exceptional athlete,
who achieved the dream that we have all
had at one time or another, and some still have today. An excellent person.
An athlete who gives his best for his
country, for his family, for his friends,
for the team. The day when he
won the Olympic medal and I saw his
interview that night, the way he spoke
and how he did it totally changed
my way of thinking. I said to myself,
“I have to think “big and think like
a winner, “because in life
we also need “to be winners, not
just specifically “in sports.” Maybe I changed
my way of thinking. And he tells me,
“I am a race walker “because I saw you.”
And I tell him that my kids will probably
be race walkers because they
will see you. It’s a privilege to
be a friend of him. And it makes me
feel happy when I hear him saying,
“I started race walking “thanks to Erick.” (RIO 2016.
RACE WALK MEN – 20KM) Erick changed the
life of the young people in Chiyuc. He has always been
involved in young groups, even before
he was an athlete. He helped young people
from an association, to work for development
in both his town, San Cristobal Verapaz
and in Alta Verapaz. I am one of the youngest
Olympic medallists. I won the medal two
years after having started to train
professionally. The moment when
they put the medal around your neck,
it was a Guatemalan who gave me mine,
it brings back all the years of struggling,
of getting up early, of staying up late,
of the times I went to bed hungry. San Cristobal Verapaz
had one of the highest rates of
mother-infant mortality. Merely having a health
centre and access to medicine is going
to change many lives, because we will
no longer see so many mothers
and children die. When I was studying,
many of my friends’ brothers, the
babies died at birth. They came to school
sad, and I asked them, “What happened?”
“My brother died “because my mother didn’t “make it to the
hospital in time. “It was so far away.” One day, a lady told me,
“We have asked “the mayor to
help us with a “health centre, but we
still don’t have one.” I told her, “Let me see
what I can do.” I promised to get
a health centre. “It will be small, but
I will give it to you.” Besides the health
centre, he tried to benefit those who were studying basic education and trade school
in their village. And he donated
the remodelling of their
educational centre. First, we built the
secondary school facility learning
centre as students. There was no budget.
And we brought in the stone from 2
kilometres away on our backs and
we built it ourselves. Later, a company
offered to help us. They offered me
an athletics track. If you want it, I will do
it, wherever you want. I mentioned to
them that they could build an education
centre instead, which would benefit
more people. They asked what
I was going to get out of that.
“Me? Being happy. “Knowing that young
people were “going to study
in a better place.” They got
to work and built a very large
secondary school. That’s why it
doesn’t fall down, because it was built
with a lot of love, with a lot of affection
and a lot of commitment. Now they have a
mechanics workshop, a bakery, they learn
about electricity. These young people
are the future of Guatemala. Every day,
when I went to bed, I saw myself
crossing the finish line, winning a
medal. Honestly, I always saw myself
as an Olympic champion. Who dreams
awake, makes his dreams come true. 16 million of
Guatemalans now believe
in ourselves. He has marked my life. And not only mine,
but also that of thousands of
young people. He has become
an inspiration. He has given
Guatemala that desire to get ahead. For young people
to do sports. For them to
do sports. I’m here to
teach them. Honestly, I never
intended to get so far when
I got started. But I knew that
athletics could make
a good story. (THE POWER OF ONE. SPECIAL

19 Replies to “How Guatemala’s Olympic medal inspired a generation of Racewalkers | The Power of One”

  1. Saludos a Erick Barrondo, donde quiera que se encuentre…no sólo es inspiración para Guatemala, sino para toda Latinoamérica y el Caribe! Bendiciones para él!

  2. Erick Barrondo, Guatemala, algo grande, poderoso y bueno hay en ella, para dar un ser tan sabio en sus palabras y sus acciones, un iluminado. Clarividente, generoso, tenas, inteligente, sabio, ¿lindo?, una hermosa persona, un iluminado. "Los medallistas olímpicos son los únicos que nunca van a ser exmedallistas, los campeones del mundo hoy son campeones mañana ya son excampeones mundiales, el medallista olímpico es el único que se sube al Olimpo y queda ahí para siempre". El milagro de el AMOR de la familia, el padre, que lo desafía a ganar para que el tenga una razón para usar su regalo, la sabiduría de la madre, hay muchos pobres millonarios que sólo tiene dinero, esta familia quizás no tenían dinero, pero eran millonarios en afecto, amor, capacidad de superación, Fe. La familia, la base de la sociedad, lo que hoy esta en crisis, en gran parte de la humanidad, es la base de tanta violencia en la actualidad. Me han hecho emocionar, Erick y sobre todo, LA FAMILIA de Erick, son un ejemplo de lo que debe ser una familia, amor, contención, inspiración, afecto…

  3. Proud to be a Guatemalan and attend Phillips Academy Andover. No matter the country you come from, don't let that define your future. This video really shows the struggle for success in Guatemala, but if determined, anyone can be far in life. I hope one day I go to the Olympics for the 1500m and 3000m. Make Guademala proud!

  4. No solo fue Eric o Guatemala fue sino tambien los millones de Latinos o hispanos, que hoy por hoy podemos ser mas unidos y triunfadores si no lo proponemos, seas de donde seas no es lafuerza o la altura, sino lo que o Como representes tus valores y tus principios amen!!

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