By Santiago Carbone
Montevideo, Jun 2 (EFE).- Uruguayan 800-meter runner Deborah Rodriguez, her country’s lone gold medalist at the recently concluded South American Championships in Athletics, faces big obstacles as a small-country athlete yet is doing her utmost to prepare for this year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
In an interview with Efe in Montevideo, she spoke about the challenges of being a sports figure in her homeland, where that pursuit does not “guarantee you a job, a house or a salary.”
Nine years after competing in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2012 London Olympics, Rodriguez recorded a time in last weekend’s 800-meter race in Guayaquil, Ecuador, that has given her a privileged ranking position heading into the Summer Games.
With her time of 2:03.38 at that event (which she also competed in at the 2016 Rio Olympics), she also secured a berth in next year’s World Athletics Championships.
Nevertheless, she said winning an Olympic medal in the 800 meters – an event dominated by African athletes, many of whom can break the two-minute mark – will be an extremely tall order.
“It’s very difficult to be an Olympic medalist,” said the 28-year-old, who recalled that she once trained in the United States with one of the world’s best teams and experienced a whole other world in terms of sporting culture.
She added that athletes in the US get their start at a very young age, have the option of vying for a university scholarship and becoming a professional and can aspire to an endorsement contract with multinational companies that allows them to devote themselves fully to their sport.
By contrast, Rodriguez said very few athletes in Uruguay have that luxury.
“I’m studying, training, serving as my own manager and looking for support so I can go to the United States and compete,” she said.
Along those same lines, Rodriguez said it is difficult for athletes to excel when they are worried about their future.
“‘What am I going to do after this?’ is a concern that takes up a lot of my time,” she added.
Despite the difficulties, Rodriguez said she still feels the obligation of being a good role model so Uruguayan children feel motivated to pursue sports and try to follow in her footsteps.
The winner of the Circle of Sports Journalists of Uruguay’s 2020 Charrua Award for best track-and-field athlete, Rodriguez said she and the rest of her Olympic-bound countrymen are making every effort to get ready for Tokyo.
“I think all of us representing Uruguay are putting a lot of energy into it and there’s no one who wants the best possible results more than the athletes,” the track star said. EFE