With a modest 3:58.77 career best to his credit, Colombian 1500m runner Carlos Santiago Hernandez won’t necessarily start as the man to beat when his event at the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 gets under way on Wednesday (15).
However, the 16-year-old firmly believes that that should not discount him, or any of his team-mates, from the medal chase this week as they seek to add to their modest tally of two medals at the previous eight editions of the championships.
Norma Gonzalez got the girls’ 400m bronze at the inaugural championships in 1999 but Colombia then had to wait 12 years until another of their athletes stood on the podium, after Kenny Perez finished second in the 10,000m race walk in 2011.
“The Colombian team had a very good period of training and preparation,” he said, confidently addressing the national and international journalists gathered at the championships’ traditional pre-event press conference.
“We worked with coaches, nutritionists, physiotherapists and sports psychologists. We’ve been given lots of attention and really believe that we will do well.”
Ibarguen an inspiration
Just as helpful have been recent role models such as Caterine Ibarguen, the world triple jump champion and Olympic silver medallist who has firmly put Colombia on the world athletics map.
“I believe that it’s something very, very important,” he said of Ibarguen’s success.
“Caterine Ibarguen has done amazing things. We just couldn’t believe it. It’s something very important. For juniors and youths, it’s important to see a Colombian athlete doing so well. When I see her, I want to be like her.”
But his entry to the sport began well before Ibarguen’s rise through the global ranks.
Hernandez, who hails from the northern Bogota suburb of Chía, began running at the age of six after being introduced to the sport through what is now very much a family affair.
“My mother and father are elite runners and they brought me to athletics,” he said.
His father, Juan Carlos Hernandez, is a 2:16 marathon runner currently training for October’s Chicago Marathon where he hopes to achieve the Olympic qualifying standard of 2:17 within the qualifying period.
His mother, Indira Paola Español, is a regular fixture on the domestic road-running scene where she mainly contests 10km races and works as a club trainer. She is also his coach.
“It is very nice to do the same things as my mother and father,” he said.
He has already collected some good experience at regional track and cross country Grand Prix events and championships, but nothing compares to the global stage that he and his 38 team-mates are about to experience in their home country this week.
“Not just for me, for the whole team the championships are hugely important,” he said.
“The warmth of the Colombian crowd will help raise the pressure on us, but the higher pressure will also help us improve our marks as well. It’s going to be interesting to see how well we can perform in front of our crowd.”
His race plan? The same as his advice to his team-mates: to leave everything on the track.
“My competition, my races, will require lots of tactics. I also believe that these events are where we Colombians can have the best impact. We must go out there and run like we always have – run with all our heart and soul.”
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF