Mexican race walkers overcome physical challenges on journey to Olympics


Athletes from Chihuahua share personal stories with fans on social media on eve of Olympic competition

Horacio Nava Reza of Mexico races during the Men’s 50km Walk Final on Day 16 of the Lima 2019 Pan American Games at Parque Kennedy on August 11, 2019 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – At least six athletes born or raised in Chihuahua will be representing Mexico in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. Two more are scheduled to compete in the Paralympic Games there next month as well.

The Olympians include three racewalkers, a boxer, a swimmer and a soccer player. The Paralympians will compete in Taekwondo.

“These are athletes who have dedicated their life to their sport and have a long history of achievements,” said Julio Ortega, an official with the Chihuahua Sports Institute. “Most have faced and overcome personal obstacles including, in the case of the Paralympians, major physical challenges.”

Mexico has won 10 Olympic medals in race walking, so it is no surprise that three of the border state residents in the Tokyo Games will compete in that discipline. One is a particular overachiever, Ortega said.

Horacio Nava Reza won international 10K, 20K and 50K competitions before he was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease.

“The trembling, the sweating, I thought it was normal,” Nava said in a post he shared on his Facebook page.

Mexico’s National Sports Commission in 2005 arranged to bring a surgeon from Houston to operate on his heart. Since then, he’s participated in two Olympic Games – in Beijing and London. Now 39, the former Mexican army sergeant and proud father is eyeing his first Olympic medal in the 50-kilometer walk. He’s also celebrating getting his master’s degree in physical education from the Autonomous University of Chihuahua last June.

Ortega said Nava and fellow runner Eduardo Olivas trained for the Olympic Games in the mountains of Western Chihuahua, where they hoped the thin air and dirt trails would help them reach peak conditioning.

Alegna Gonzalez of Mexico celebrates winning gold in the final of the women's 10,000m walk on day five of The IAAF World U20 Championships on July 14, 2018 in Tampere, Finland. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for IAAF)
Alegna Gonzalez of Mexico celebrates winning gold in the final of the women’s 10,000m walk on day five of The IAAF World U20 Championships on July 14, 2018 in Tampere, Finland. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for IAAF)

Alegna Aryday Gonzalez Munoz also trained in the mountains. At 22, this is her first Olympic competition. She told Fox Sports that Nava inspired her to become a racewalker.

In a social media post, she said she’s liked competitive running since grade school. “In physical ed class I wanted to compete with boys, but they told me I could not because I was a girl,” she said on Facebook. Gonzalez credits her grade school principal, Ana Polanco, for standing up for her and telling her it was okay for girls to dream and, above all, set goals.

And like her former idol and now colleague Nava, Gonzalez had to go under a surgeon’s knife. She had a cyst removed from her left knee in 2019.

The other Olympians from Chihuahua are swimmer Byanca Melissa Rodriguez, who’ll be competing in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke, boxer Rogelio Romero Torres, competing in the 81-kilogram division, and Adrian Mora Barraza, an alternate defender in the Mexican National Soccer Team.

The two Paralympians are Francisco Pedraza and Daniela Martinez Mariscal, both competing in Taekwondo.

A complete list of Mexican athletes competing in the Tokyo Games can be found here.

Visit the homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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