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Is México on the wrong track?

Vida en el Valle

(Published Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 09:59AM)

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Mexican athletes at the Run For The Dream indoor track and field meet have the desire, but lack the national support.

If they are to compete in the Olympics, the Pan American Games or the World Championships, the Federación Mexicana de Asociaciones de Atletismo will have to be more active, said the five Mexican student athletes who received funds from México City's Universidad Tecnológica de Monterrey.

The university paid half of the travel costs, while families of the six competitors pitched in.

The trip for the two-day meet, according to head coach Guillermo Estrada, was a modest one: The group stayed at Days Inn and ate at Hometown Buffet.

"It's very hard to compete and then qualify for things like the Pan American Games," said assistant coach José Salvador Miranda, who represented México at the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia.

"The support should come from the start. It should come from the time they are children," said Miranda, 40. "It's too bad because sometimes there are talented individuals who do not have any support and they become disillusioned."

Parents usually support the athletes. Necessities include running shoes, access to quality coaching and tournaments.

Some athletes rely on gifts like new running shoes from supporters.

"I"ve seen youngsters run in tennis shoes because they do not have spikes (running shoes). It's very difficult to even buy a complete uniform to train in," said Miranda.

Miranda, who began his athletic career at age 18, is a wealth of information to the students. His résumé includes the 2000 and 2001 World Championship of Cross Country. He placed 23rd at the 2001 World Running Championship in Canada.

Miranda believes without the support of his parents, his running would have been limited to small, national meets, and he would have never competed at such events.

None of the Mexican student athletes had ever seen an indoor track and field event. The expose leaves them wanting more.

"We will always be glad to have some more money from the college. I would like the federation to see that we have a lot of good athletes, but they aren't doing anything," said Renato Monroy, 16, who is being courted by the university.

He joked about not attending the 2011 Pan American Games, which were hosted in México, saying he was in school.

The federation, they said, waits too long before showing any support for athletes.

Former Olympian Ana Gabriela Guevara, who retired in 2008, was hailed for winning the 400-meter silver medal at the 2004 Olympics.

"It's like they have to win a medal before the attention by the federation arises," said Miranda. "The support usually goes to sporting events on television."

María Fernanda Ginez, an 18-year-old sprinter, welcomes the university's support in attending competitions.

"With more early development and support, we can formulate ourselves to these international competitions," said Ginez. "And, maybe even represent México on the national team."

Estrada, a coach for 32 years, said Guevara was fortunate to have results early in her career. He said Guevara had travel money and a personal doctor, but the amenities drew some controversy.

Estrada and Miranda are taking the next step in providing for México's next generation of athletes. They want to expose incoming student athletes to events in the U.S. like the Run For The Dream, an April meet at Asuza College, and a meet at Mt. San Antonio College.

The goal is to compete in about eight national competitions this year. The university squad will eventually participate annually in 20 international and national competitions.

"We hope that aside from competing for the university, some of the athletes can maybe represent the country on the national team," said Estrada.

"I think the federation should align with the development of athletes in the sport. There is a separation between the sport in the universities and the federation. It is not totally united."

The coaches said that unless the federation adds to the development of young athletes, the country will produce a fewer number of track and field athletes.

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