Felix Sanchez wins gold medal for Dominican Republic

Lugelin Santos brings silver

Felix Sanchez, a 34-year old athlete who was born to Dominican parents in New York City and lived most of his life in California, chose to represent the Dominican Republic at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, but failed to qualify for the 400m hurdle finals. Four years later, he dominated his event, the 400-meter hurdles, and brought incredible joy to the country, winning gold at the Athens Games.
The nation was so grateful that the National Olympic Stadium in Santo Domingo was named after him. Luguelin Santos, 18, also beat the odds for the silver medal, in the same track and even the same lane in which Sanchez had ran just 45 minutes earlier.

Dominican American Félix Sánchez won the 400-meter hurdles final with the memory of his late grandma on his mind and in his heart winning his second career gold at age 34, and the Dominican Republic’s first medal of the 2012 Games.

He ran with a photo of the two of them pinned beneath his race bib, and “Abuela”— Spanish for “Grandmother” — written on his yellow spikes.

Sánchez won the 400 hurdles at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Four years later in Beijing, he woke up on the morning of his preliminary heat to the news that his grandmother had died. Sánchez thought about dropping out but decided to run, and he wound up with the 22nd-fastest time of 25 finishers.

“I ran terribly. I cried the whole day. I was very emotional”, he recalled. “After that Olympics, I made a promise that I was going to win a medal for her”.

He separated himself from the pack down the stretch, so far ahead that he could start celebrating early, sticking out his tongue as he crossed the line and letting out a scream.

“I went out probably too hard.… I came off the 10th hurdle and I was very tired. And for about three or four strides — about 5 meters — I was just waiting for someone to pass me. But then about 10, 15 meters to the line, I knew at that point no one was going to pass me, « said Sánchez, who went to the University of Southern California. » And then it got surreal, and I was just overwhelmed with emotion”.

Those feelings welled up even more strongly a short while later, when Sánchez stepped atop the podium for the medals ceremony, the raising of the Dominican Republic’s flag, and the playing of the national anthem.

It began to drizzle, and Sánchez began sobbing. He covered his face with his hands and spectators offered a loud cheer of support in response.

“Ironically, it started raining. It just made me feel like my grandmother was crying tears of joy” Sánchez explained at his news conference, choking up. “She was proud of me”.

Dominican Republic Live, from Fox News, 07.08.12, 4pm

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