That power was on display in the Olympic men’s 400-meter hurdles. It’s what made Felix Sanchez overcome years of injuries and claim the gold medal just a few weeks shy of his 35th birthday.
As he ran the most important race of his life, he’d kept his grandmother’s memory close to his heart. Pinned beneath his bib was a photo of his beloved “Abuela,” Lilian Morcelo, the Dominican grandmother who had raised him. After crossing the finish line, he knelt down, placed the photo on the ground, knelt down and kissed it. "It was extra motivation," Sanchez told reporters. "It was a reminder of why I came here and what this year meant to me."
The gold medal he won that night in London wasn’t his first, but it was his most memorable. Eight years earlier, at the 2004, Olympics in Athens, he’d struck gold, and expected to do the same in Beijing in 2008. But it was not to be. On the first day of the qualifying heats, Sanchez learned the devastating news that his 72-year-old grandmother had died.
"I got [the] news on the morning of the first round in Beijing that she had died," he explained. "That affected me. I cried the whole day. I ran, but I ran badly, and I made a promise that day that I would win a medal for her. It took me four years.”
Those four years would be filled with hope and punctuated by injuries. But throughout it all, Sanchez kept thinking of that promise and all the sacrifices his grandmother had made for him. "She was everything," Sanchez said. "She was the center of our family and kept everyone together.” She was his inspiration.
Along with pinning his grandmother’s photo to his bib in London, Sanchez had printed the word “Abuela” on his spikes. Abuela—Spanish for grandmother and a loving nod to the woman who raised a champion.
To read more inspiring stories of people raised in grandfamilies, download Generations United publication Grand Successes: Stories of Lives Well-Raised today!
Photo Credit: Felix Sanchez victory lap of honour, London 2012 Olympics
© 2012 Egghead06, used under a Creative Commons AttributionShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/