Dubai: Double Olympic gold medallist Felix Sanchez says his eight years in wilderness helped him mature as a person and a top class athlete.
Sanchez won his first Olympic gold in the 400m hurdles in the 2004 Athens Games, and then had to endure a lengthy eight-year wait before finally taking his second gold medal at the 2012 London Games earlier this year.
One of the most enduring memories of the London Games was the 34-year-old Sanchez sobbing throughout his country’s national anthem, more due to the fulfilled promise he had made to his grandmother who had passed away during the Olympic Games heats four years before.
With two medals eight years and two Olympic Games apart, Sanchez can’t but help pick and choose on the memories and the significance they hold for him.
“I appreciate this medal more than the one I won in 2004 as I know obviously that my window of opportunity was closing. So to finally put it all together in that one moment was very, very special. And it is this feeling that makes this second medal more special than the first gold medal,” Sanchez told Gulf News here yesterday.
The 34-year-old Sanchez has made the long trip from Los Angeles to join Rashid Al Awadi, Dubai Sports Council’s Communications and Marketing Director and Sahar Al Guindy, Nike’s Marketing Manager at an announcement of the “We Run” race movement on Thursday.
The Nike initiative will be launched for the first time in the Gulf region with a 5km and 10km race on the eastern frond of The Palm at 7 pm today and Sanchez will be at the venue to conduct a warm-up session and flag the race off.
The struggle for Sanchez has been hard and the hurdler now wants to put all this behind him as he sees himself evolving into a much better athlete and person.
“When I won in 2004 it was a lot easier. I was one of the favourites — something like David Rudisha — and everyone expected me to win. But after so many years of injuries and without winning a race, it was such an emotional reaction and this was because I knew how hard it was to get back to the top with a gold medal,” he related.
“When you have to work harder to achieve something then the reward is all the more special. This time I trained harder and did so much more that I appreciate this medal more now,” he added.
A major part of his ambitions fulfilled, Sanchez now wants to take things one year at a time.
“I have definitely matured over a period of time. When I first started everything came so easy. I was confident and knew I had the speed and everything flowed together. Now I have to focus more on when it comes to competition. I have to take everything more seriously. Now I am lot more dedicated and lot more focused,” he related.
“This year, I am doing the World Indoors Championship and then the World Championships in Moscow next year. Basically I want to take things one year at a time,” he added.
When: Today (November 23)
Where: East Crescent of The Palm Jumeirah (next to Atlantis)
What: 10km and 5km races
Followed by: Entertainment party involving live international DJ
Already registered: 5,000 runners
Special: Olympic gold medallist Felix Sanchez to conduct warm-up session and start off the race