You might remember Leo Manzano from his pretty infamous Olympic victory lap in 2012. Back then the Mexican-American athlete had just made history as the first American since 1968 to have won an Olympic medal in the men’s 1500 meter run in the London Games, when he decided to mark his victory by carrying both the U.S. and Mexico flags during his celebratory run. Almost immediately controversy ensued.
Some criticized the Olympian for carrying the Mexican flag also when he was playing for the U.S. team.
Manzano, however, didn’t back down from his spur of the moment decision to rejoice with both flags.
As he explained to NPR shortly after: “Well, you know, the U.S. is my home. I love the U.S., but my roots are still in Mexico, and you know, I still have family there. I still see my grandparents and I still have roots in Mexico.”
That same no nonsense approach is what propelled the Guanajuato-born athlete to the Olympics in 2012. After moving to the United States at the age of four, Manzano grew up in Texas and it was there that he began his lifelong training to prepare for the London Games. We had the chance to ask Manzano a few questions about his journey to becoming an Olympian through the Coca-Cola #ThatsGold initiative for this year’s Rio Olympics. What he shared with us was pretty inspirational.
Here our brief conversation with Leo Manzano:
JOW: What has the experience of becoming an Olympian been like?
Leo: It has been challenging with a lot of hard work and sacrifices, but it has been a great experience. Competing and representing my country has been a blessing and an honor!
JOW: What motivated you to push yourself to achieve such a high level of performance?
Leo: What motivated me to push myself was my family, friends, community and wonderful sponsors like HokaOneOne and Coca-Cola. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am at today.
JOW: What would you say to others who are looking to achieve great goals in life whether sports related or not about staying the course?
Leo: First, don’t stop believing in yourself, second never give up and keep working hard to achieve your goals and third, become a student of what it is you are trying to do and learn as much as you can.
JOW: What has been the most humbling experience about this whole process for you?
Leo: This question reminds me of Coca-Cola’s 2016 Rio Olympic campaign “#ThatsGold”; one which I happily participated in. #ThatsGold was the belief that gold moments don’t just occur on the podium, but in everyday life. All the support that I receive from the fans, the motivating messages that never stop coming in and having the youth see me as their role model, is the most humbling experience of all and better than any medal you can ever have.
More from Leo (en español)