8 junio, 2024

Jefferson Pérez: biography, medals and other achievements

Jefferson Perez He is an Ecuadorian born in Cuenca on July 1, 1974. He became known worldwide for his successes as an athlete in the athletic march modality. In fact, he is currently the only athlete from Ecuador who has been awarded medals in the Olympic Games.

Pérez has won two Olympic medals. The first was gold and it was in the Olympic Games held in Atlanta in 1996. The second medal he obtained was silver, and it was in the framework of the Olympic Games that were held in Beijing in 2008. In both meetings he participated in the athletic march of 20 kilometers.

At 34 years of age, in 2008, Jefferson Pérez retired from competitions. Before his retirement, he was considered the best athletic marching athlete in Ecuadorian history. And he was not only recognized within Ecuador, since he was also world champion in athletic walking in three years: 2003, 2005 and 2007.

Pérez had a long career, and at the age of 17 he won a competition and obtained his first medal in the city of California, in the United States. During her career, she received more than 20 awards, including Best Ibero-American Athlete and Gold Athlete, the latter award granted by the South American Athletics Confederation.


Ecuador and the Olympic Games

Ecuador’s first participation in an Olympic Games took place in 1924, in Paris, where it did not obtain any medal.

It took 44 years for him to participate in the Olympics again, appearing in Mexico 1968 with the same previous luck, that is, without obtaining any medals.

From then on and until 1992, the country participated without fail in the subsequent Olympic Games, but without any of its athletes managing to get on the podium: Munich 1972, Montreal 1976, Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992.

Olympic Games Atlanta 1996

The representation of Ecuador in the athletic march modality was in the legs of Jefferson Leonardo Pérez Quezada, who in Atlanta experienced his second Olympic participation.

The morning of July 26, 1996 changed the life of the athlete and the entire Ecuadorian public, who stopped their breath in unison to follow each step of Pérez Quezada until reaching the goal obtained in 1 hour, 20 minutes and 7 seconds.

Pérez Quezada achieved a gold medal as an athletic marcher. It was a 20-kilometer march that gave the golden Olympic joy to all Ecuadorians for the first time.

Jefferson revealed days later in one of the many interviews that he gave to the press that when it was time to cross the finish line one of his shoes was broken. However, this was not an insurmountable obstacle to obtain what he had dreamed of so much and thus give joy and pride to his homeland.

Pre-Olympic career path

Few people had followed the sports walk of that boy, although by that time he already had some medals to his credit: at the age of 17 in California, United States; and in Bulgaria, where in 1990 he had won the bronze medal at the World Youth Athletics Championships.

It was in 1992 when he obtained the junior world title in Seoul, Korea, giving him the necessary confidence to continue his sports career successfully.

He reveals in an interview that after the Seoul title, Zhumir Distillery would sponsor him four years in a row. Before that he only had two local sponsorships. Neither the central nor the local government supported him.

Perhaps that is why in 1996 he ran the 20 kilometers in Atlanta with worn-out shoes. One broke before crossing the finish line. He thus he climbed to the podium. In 2003 he won gold at the Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

That same year, almost in his 30s, Jefferson Pérez became a record holder by reaching the finish line in 1 hour, 17 minutes and 21 seconds.

The press headlines of the moment described him as the fastest walker in the world. That happened at the World Athletics Championships in Paris.

sports start

Pérez’s parents were two humble and hard-working people: Manuel Jesús Pérez and María Lucrecia Quezada.

His sports beginnings were almost random. Jefferson was in his second year at the Francisco Febres Cordero school when he was presented with the challenge of having to do an endurance race in order to pass Physical Education.

At that time his older brother, Fabián, was training in La Madre park under the direction of coach Luis Muñoz. So, Jefferson comes up with the idea of ​​asking Fabian to give him his position for a week to get the proper training and be able to pass the subject.

In April 1988 he appeared for the first time at the La Madre de Azuay park, and from that moment on this would be the place where Jefferson began to carry out his usual training sessions.

Once Luis Muñoz realized his talent, he encouraged him to continue with other tests and to continue preparing for what the trainer saw would be a discipline in which Jefferson could excel.

Within a few weeks, as the winner of the Sport AID race, Jefferson earns the opportunity for the first time to represent his country in the United States and England as a sports ambassador.

The challenge of joining the march

Olympic walking is a sport that involves moving the body in a certain way so as not to be disqualified.

Because of these strange movements, Jefferson had to consult with his family and his pillow the proposal made by his coach Luis Chocho to join the group of marchers, where the champions Luisa Nivicela and Miriam Ramón already participated.

It was thus that, receiving family support, Jefferson decided to give himself up to this demanding sport, combining his studies with work as a vegetable seller in the market.

obstacles in the way

Given the high training that high-level athletes have, they are prone to serious physical injuries that can even take them out of a sports career. Jefferson was not without this danger during his career. In 1993 he suffered a clavicle fracture that immobilized him for a while.

In 1999, days before his participation in the World Championship to be held in Spain, a herniated disc was detected.

The latter did not prevent him from participating in the competition, but if he participated, he could risk increasing the injury with even irreversible damage. Even so, Jefferson’s momentum and desire to reach the podium lead him to participate.

On that occasion, and despite the pain, he reached second place, proudly displaying the silver medal obtained. After that he had to undergo surgery and a long recovery process that kept him in a wheelchair for a few weeks.

At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Jefferson was perhaps a bit frustrated by the results achieved, as he was unable to repeat the feat of winning the medal and had to settle for fourth place.

This led him to make the decision to abandon his sports career, at least for a while. He needed to recover not only physically, but also emotionally. During this time he dedicated himself to completing his university studies as a commercial engineer.

Second Olympic medal

During that time he finished his studies and had time to rethink the decision. In addition, she had received numerous requests from the general public.

After consulting with his family and receiving their support, the athlete decides to return to the march. He already had a philosophy of life: when he begins to believe that the impossible does not exist, that is when he begins to live.

And it is in this way that in 2005 he is world champion in Helsimki, Finland. Two years later he repeats the feat in Osaka, Japan.

Now 34 years old, he returns to some Olympics representing Ecuador. On August 15, 2008, in Beijing, China, she obtained the second Olympic medal for Ecuador, a silver one.

The government, in view of his feat, awards him the prize for the Best Ecuadorian Athlete. And that same year, after the World Challenge competition in Murcia, Spain, he retired from the sport.

Jefferson Pérez accumulated 11 medals in world and international events. Together with the Pole Robert Korzeniowzki, he shares the honor of being the best walkers in the world.

And in his honor, after that 1996, the government signs Ministerial Agreement No. 3401. In this, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports decrees July 26 as National Sports Day.

In 2013, the High Performance Plan was created at the government level. For the first time, scholarships began to be awarded to athletes and to finance their training.

The withdrawal of the athletic march

After retiring from highly competitive sports, Jefferson Pérez continues his master’s degree in Business Administration at the University of Azuay. He also decided to found a firm to organize sporting events.

He also creates and presides over the Jefferson Foundation. Its objective: to promote the construction of a just and balanced society where priority is given to children and adolescents with limited resources.

He is currently studying a postgraduate degree in Political Science in Salamanca, Spain. In a recent press conference, he pointed out that he may run as a candidate for Mayor of Cuenca in 2019.

Below is a recent interview with Jefferson Pérez:


Constant, Soraya (2016) Jefferson Pérez’s broken shoe. Newspaper El País. Spain. Recovered in elpais.com
Quizhpe, Manuel (2015) Jefferson Pérez is a double Olympic medalist and has 11 medals. Newspaper El Comercio. Ecuador. Recovered in elcomercio.com
(2017) 21 years of the feat of Jefferson Pérez. Newspaper The Telegraph. Ecuador. Recovered in eltelegrafo.com.ec
(2016) Jefferson Pérez, the only Olympic gold medalist from Ecuador in these 95 years of El Universo. Journal the Universe. Consulted on February 16, 2018 at eluniverso.com
Jefferson Perez. EcuRed. Cuba. Recovered in ecured.cu

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