In the history of the Olympic Games, Mexico has been characterized by its athletes in the diving discipline; from the mythical Joaquín Capilla, Juan Botella, Álvaro Gaxiola, Carlos Girón, Jesús Mena and Fernando Platas to the current generation, that has generated an infinity of important figures in the field such as Paola Espinoza, Tatiana Ortiz, Iván García, Germán Sánchez, Alejandra Orozco and, of course, Laura Sánchez.
In Sanchez’s interview with PanamericanWorld, the diver speaks about her professional and personal dreams. She defines herself in a simple, non – ornamented way: ”I’m a 28 year -old female diver, who started this discipline in León, Guanajato, when I was about to turn 8; I liked it and now I’ve been doing this for twenty years, and I have participated in three Olympic Games. I can say that this sport is a fundamental part of my life”. Humble as she is, she doesn’t mention that she is also part of her country’s history, an essential part of an elite of only fifteen women who have achieved a medal in an Olympic competition. Sanchez got her bronze in London 2012 in the 3 – metre springboard.
How was your childhood, what can you tell us about your family?
I’m from León, Guanajato and I have four siblings (I was the third to be born), my parents live together and I grew up with them. We belong to the lower middle class, but we always had food on our table. We didn’t have enough money to afford all the luxuries we wanted and I think that has been a part of my life: to work hard in order to get what I want; that’s something that my parents taught me and I’m extremely thankful for that.
How did you start in the diving discipline?
Actually, that was quite accidental. I was a restless little girl so my mother decided I should take regional dancing classes in the Social Insurance (Club) of León (Guanajato) and swimming as well, since she is phobic to water, in fact, she can’t swim. Honestly, I didn’t really like it, I was about to turn 8 in a month and I started in the kids’ pool. I remember that in my second lesson my coach (Francisco Rueda) showed up, he made me go through an evaluation test, I passed it and I was invited to join the diving team. I didn’t know what diving was, but they told me ”look at all those children playing over there, that is diving”; so I said yes, I started to train and I liked it.
I remember that the first time I was taken to a one-metre springboard I jumped and I forgot to say I didn’t know how to swim. I was told to jump and I did it, but I never thought the pool would be so deep so they had to help me go out of the pool because I couldn’t do it by myself.
High performance sports are very demanding, sacrifices have to be made and it implies that sometimes you won’t be able to do what young people usually do, has it been a sacrifice for you? Have you ever regretted your choice?
It was complicated in the sense that I had to come from León to Mexico city without my parents at the age of twelve in order to keep on training, since back then there weren’t enough installations for this discipline – now there are many in every state – but I think we made the best decision, to leave my family in order to pursue a dream, a goal. This is what I like, to me suffering is not being able to do my sport, that is difficult for me, and I think that everyone here – everyone who wants to see their dream come true; a goal or an Olympic medal – is because we love, we adore what we do; this is the reason why we spend so many hours in the pool, if we didn’t like this, it would be really tough to spend 6 or 8 hours per day in two training sessions.
What did you feel when you got to the podium in London 2012?
Definitely, as an athlete, a medal in the Olympic Games is the biggest dream I can have, it meant a twenty years work for me to get it and being in that podium, seeing my flag up there and knowing that my dreams had come true was a way to close many circles in my life, to feel fulfilled and satisfied with the work I had been doing.
What are the keys, form your point of view, for Mexico to be so successful in diving?
Mexican diving has an important history of Olympic medals, and a fundamental part of that is the fact that we have very good trainers who are always updated, they are aware of new trends in this discipline, actually, Mexico is often some steps ahead, it’s a pioneer in new diving. On the other hand, we Mexicans are famous for two things: jumping a lot and being very fast. That is common in our country because, to my opinion, unlike other sports, divers aren’t just from one particular state, we come from different parts of the country; in Mexico there are many very strong people, with speed and who jump well. We do lack people, I mean, we can’t compare ourselves to China, for instance, because their national competitions are impressive, they have hundreds of divers, we are not so many; best case scenario we are twenty women and twenty men who can compete nationally, I think our sport needs wider diffusion.
What are your future plans for your professional career?
The First Force National Diving Championship was some days ago and I could classify to join the national selection that will represent Mexico in Shanghai’s World Cup; and there are many more things after that, such as the world series this year but there are still four stages ahead. Central American and Caribbean Games are in November here in Mexico, the Pan-American Games are in Toronto in 2015, and as a main goal, there’s the Olympic Games in Rio 2016.
Before going to London, you mentioned that you wanted to have a baby, what has happened with that?
That is something that we have been looking for but sadly it hasn’t been easy for me to have babies. I have been through different treatments since 2012, last November I had an artificial insemination done but it didn’t work, so it has been a very complicated process and I am now trying to relax to see other options. I started to compete this year so now it’s not possible; if I classify to the Olympic Games in Brazil I’d try once again right after that, if I don’t make it, I’ll try immediately.
Could it be say that you owe your achievements to your coach Francisco Rueda?
Imagine! His part as a coach is quite complicated, it implies being right behind me so I can pursue my dreams, he has been the one with me so I could get wherever I wanted to get. The fact that someone helps you meet your objectives in life is something that you can’t thank with words, the fact that he is there, 8 hours per day, outside the swimming pool, that he is doing his best so I can feel fulfilled as a woman, I really appreciate that because not everyone has someone with ´that dedication and talent to do such a thing. My coach has that, and he’s been giving his best to me for twenty years, he has been the pillar of my career; I recognize that to him and I appreciate it.
If you could have a magic bottle and you could ask for a personal wish and a professional wish, what would those be?
Choosing only one is quite difficult (she says, and remains thoughtful for a while) I would want my sport to be more known, that children wanted to practice it, that they knew we are good at this and that it this is a life-changing sport. I come from a lower class family, I never thought I’d leave this country. It is thanks to diving that I have been able to know other countries and cultures, I received scholarships in schools my parents would have never been able to afford. When I retire, I would like to start a business with my husband, but I would also like to be part of my sport’s development in my state, perhaps by becoming the municipality’s director and then go for something more important; I am from a province and things are very different from a city, I would like that, if there are talented athletes in my state, they have the chance to train and grow professionally right there, to promote something as beautiful as sport, that, as I said, can really change a life, not only to one person, but to many people. To make things easier for them.
And the personal wish?
If I had a magic bottle, I’d ask for a baby.
Apart from getting an infinity of medals in international diving, Laura Sánchez is a Public Accountant, since she happens to be good with numbers and, although she uses her very little spare time to read, watch films and support animal welfare organizations; in fact, Sánchez and her husband have five dogs at home.