Olympian Embraces Two Countries at One Time After Receiving the Silver Medal [OPINION]
As the Olympic cheers died down, the closing ceremony lights diminished and celebrations came to a quite end Sunday night, there has been one Olympian who has yet to be rightfully recognized for the silver medal that hangs around his neck, but rather scrutinized for the two flags he embraced during the medal ceremony.
Leo Manzano is fast. He’s athletic. He’s a proud Longhorn graduate. An NCAA four-time champion. He holds the school records in the 1500 meter, indoor mile and distance medley relay at UT Austin. He has more than a handful of medals from national competitions. He competed in the Olympics in Beijing. He is also the first Longhorn to make the Olympic squad in the 1500 meter.
He’s known as a man with speed, perseverance through injury and a dedication to track and field which has brought him to the second-highest platform at the 2012 London Olympics – a silver medalist.
What defines Manzano? In a word – admirable. In this country – questionable.
As he kicked to the finish and secured the silver, Manzano ran a victory lap with the United States flag wrapped around him proud as can be, in addition, he clenched tightly to the Mexican flag. Whether it was planned out or spontaneous, the idea quieted the cheers of many Americans who questioned his loyalty to “their” country.
While most of us are not Olympians, many of us can relate to Manzano. In an interview Manzano contributes his success to more than hard workouts and intense training. He says mid-race he prays to God that he might have that extra burst of energy that will get him to the finish line. A parallel to what many of us do in our own lives every day.
On the other side of the border, was a resounding joy to see one of their own make it across both the finish line, while coming full circle embracing his heritage in Mexico and acknowledging his home in the U.S.
Manzano was born in Mexico. He is a United States citizen. He’s a proud Texan. Aside from the facts, the races and the stats, what defines him? He does. Not U.S.
“The U.S. flag was the first one I grabbed. The U.S. is my home. Then I grabbed the flag from Mexico – my roots are from Mexico. What I tell people is the U.S. is my home, wouldn’t trade it for the world, but my roots are still in Mexico,” Manzano said in an interview on flotrack.org.
“I was proud and very honored and thrilled to be able to carry both flags on my shoulders,” Manzano said.
On Monday’s edition of Sports Spin, we had Maria Burns Ortiz, a writer for ESPN and Fox Latino, she interviewed Manzano and responded to the negative criticism from social media sites shouting, “Go back to Mexico.” CNN writer, Ruben Navarrette, also blasted Manzano saying his actions upset his stomach.
Hearing that – upsets mine. There’s a fine line, between this race and racism.
Manzano’s victory lap displayed the definition of true winner. A man on a global stage embracing his culture should not be forgotten for his silver medal run, but be remembered as a pioneer to those who follow behind him.
Porque, “No hay que buscarle mangas al chaleco.” Meaning, don’t search the vest for sleeves. So, let’s not complicate things unnecessarily.
Manzano brought home a silver medal in a race that has yet to see one since 1968.