Only preparation can overcome mediocrity

16/06/2004. Less than 100 days from the Olympic Games in Athens, my thoughts go back to my first Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. I was just 18 years old, and the illusion to be in an Olympics was a dream. In these circumstances an invitation arrived from the COE (Ecuadorian Olympic Committee), saying that I had been selected to go to Spain. I was very excited, as this would be my first Olympic participation. Upon arrival at the Olympic village the impact was very strong. In fact, at night I could hardly sleep. The change in time zones caused the athletes to arrive somewhat fatigued. The high temperatures of the European summer affected my health: fever, painful tonsils, body soreness, and the "shakes", all of which I couldn't control. In the face of these factors I decided to compete; impossible to let the opportunity pass.

At the starting line I could see the best in the world, race walkers who were legendary were beside me, really indescribable. For the first kilometers I was with them, but by the midpoint of the race my body couldn't take any more. As my pace slowed considerably, I was thinking about the World Junior Championship in which I would compete six weeks later, as my body, my mind and my entire being could not give any more; finally, I decided to stop.

In general terms the Ecuadorian team did not do very well on this occasion, as the coordination and responsibilities that each had to assume failed. For my part, all I wanted to do was return home; however, once back in my country I was able to read in one of he most "important" newspapers of Ecuador an article (a clipping of which I still have among the things I usually save) referring to the Ecuadorian team’s poor performance. At the end of this analysis appeared my name, Jefferson Pérez. My poor performance was mentioned, saying that our sports officials should never have taken me to this event. The article finished with the words "the shameful and humiliating participation by the race walker from Azuay." After reading that I thought, "I swear the next time will be different." Four years that ominous clipping was over my bed, and I thought every day, "Things will be different." Most people know the results of Atlanta 1996 (four years later).

I decided to write these thoughts because today there is a great dispute about taking one athlete or another to Greece, and much worse than that, it came to my attention that a national sports official has expressed the opinion that athletes should dedicate themselves to training and not to studies. . .

Pardon me, Mister Sports Official! From these pages I must express my forceful protest to you. The country is tired of corruption, lies and mediocrity. A change that Ecuador needs is being initiating in sports, by people prepared and honest, who should be an example for young people to look up to, not just instruments for obtaining medals to justify spending money, which on occasions is badly spent by some persons.

The athletes our people need will be worthy representatives of this culture, which is what obliged me to prepare myself academically. How could it possibly be that a citizen of Cuenca, the birthplace of great intellectuals, would be intellectually mediocre? With great modesty, had I been short-sighted about not preparing academically, I certainly would not have been a world medalist seven times, once Olympic gold medallist, three times Pan American gold medallist, and also the winner of innumerable events, which I was able to win based on my INTEGRAL preparation. Otherwise, I only would have been another mediocre athlete.

Onward, my athlete friends, you must face more difficult rivals in our surroundings than abroad; but remember; I was able to pass through and overcome, stinginess, envy, and mediocrity. Not only can you do so, but it is also your obligation to do so, because our people need you, because a sports career comes to an end, but human beings always remain forever; and you must always remain as worthy examples for the youth of our country.

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