Photo: Leo Manzano
Mexican-born U.S. Olympian Leo Manzano told Efe that he hopes his silver medal in the men’s 1,500-meter race at the 2012 London Games will inspire young Hispanics to follow in his footsteps.
“I want others to look at the road I’ve traveled to get here and see how a little guy like me could grab this triumph, and that it inspires them to fight,” the 5-foot-4-inch Manzano said in a telephone interview from London.
Manzano, who said he was proud to represent the Hispanic community at the 2012 Games, added that he was excited to be the first U.S. medalist in the 1,500-meters in more than four decades.
“I feel proud and honored to be the person who could get the United States here once again,” Manzano said.
The last time an American athlete won a medal in the 1,500-meters was in the 1968 Games in Mexico City, where Jim Ryun came in second to Kenya’s Kipchoge Keino.
“When I crossed the finish line I was carried away by emotion, because I’ve had to overcome such a lot of obstacles and heartbreak to reach this moment. I felt so many things all at once and it was like a tremendous weight had been lifted from my shoulders,” Manzano said.
Brought to the United States by his parents when he was 4, Manzano wrapped himself in the flags of the United States and Mexico at the end of the race.
“The United States is my home and I’m very proud to represent it. I love this country and wouldn’t change it for anything, but my roots are Mexican and I also feel proud to be able to carry the two flags,” he said.
The athlete hopes his achievements inspire other Hispanic youths to follow in his footsteps and become the athletes of the future.
Manzano, with the heart of someone more than a foot taller, has been described by his fans as “a (Ford) Pinto with the motor of a Ferrari.”
“As an athlete, for now I want to keep running and training hard and, if God wills it, to be in the next Games (2016 in Rio de Janeiro), while off the track I want to keep helping children through my foundation,” Manzano said.