MEXICO CITY – The Mexican diver who won an Olympic medal at Rio de Janeiro in 2016 captivated sports fans as he dived through the air with the grace of a ballet dancer, though all the while he was ordering his painful fractured shoulder to behave as if it were a domesticated animal.
“In the preliminaries and the semifinals, I was careful how I hit the water, and in the final I convinced myself I was well and healthy, and I dived fearlessly because you only get one chance,” German Sanchez, silver medalist in the 10-meter diving competition, told EFE.
Acknowledged as one of Latin America’s top athletes so far in the 21st century for his feats at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Sanchez was awarded Tuesday by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto the National Prize for Sports – but few realized that to accept it he had taken off his orthopedic brace or that hidden under his suit was a shoulder that had been operated on and is still halfway immobile.
“I competed with a small fracture in the back part of the shoulder...when I moved my arm back I couldn’t control it and at any moment my shoulder could have popped out of joint,” he said.
Wearing a T-shirt and jeans, he took off his orthopedic brace when it came time for the photo shoot on Tuesday because he wanted to project a healthy image, just as he did on the day of the Olympic final.
“I feel like I’m going to come out of this stronger. Right now I don’t dive in the water – I work out more in the gym and that will make me a stronger diver. I’d love to compete in the championships this summer but there’s no hurry. What’s important is the road to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo,” he said.
This Tuesday the president of Mexico will perhaps ask him how everything’s going and German will say everything’s good and might even introduce his girlfriend Lis, a slim young woman with gray eyes, but never will he mention his shoulder injury because for the athlete, that’s all behind him.
Sanchez became a diver because his dad would go diving when he took him to the beach, but when German first tried to imitate him, he flopped flat on his stomach, which is still a family joke.
“What’s great is that I’m still obsessed with diving into empty spaces. I still dive when I go to the beach, but now I figure out better how I’ll hit the water,” he said, and his champion’s image again seems well within reach.