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Sam Vazquez ran the 1,500 meters (about one mile) in 3 minutes, 37.60 seconds Saturday night in Indiana. (JenElle Photography, St. Petersburg)
Palm Coast Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2012 6 years ago

Vazquez qualifies for Olympics

by: Andrew OBrien Contributing Writer

Flagler Palm Coast High School graduate is bound for London: Sam Vazquez to race for Puerto Rico.

For the last three months, Sam Vazquez, 28, has been feverishly chasing a dream he has had his entire life.

On Saturday night, that dream became a reality.

Vazquez, a 2003 graduate of Flagler Palm Coast High School, ran the 1,500 meters in 3 minutes, 37.60 seconds on June 16, in Indiana, officially qualifying him for the London 2012 Summer Olympics under the Olympic B standard, which earns him a spot on the Puerto Rico National Team. His time was a Puerto Rican national record.

Vazquez has been traveling throughout the United States to compete in qualifying races. Earlier this month, he headed to Indianapolis to compete in the American Milers Club High Performance Series — a four-race series where several Olympics hopefuls would try to earn a spot in London, too.

In the first race on June 6, Vazquez set a personal record of 3:40.33. He was less than three seconds away from the Olympics standard.

After the personal high, however, Vazquez took a step back Wednesday, June 13. He wrote the following on his Twitter account: “Bad result today. Felt sluggish, the pace was slow, and I lost confidence. Another try on Saturday with another mindset will put me through.”

Four days later, he’d be qualified for the Summer Olympics.

He was only seconds away, but in a sport that comes down to the nanosecond, three seconds seemed like an eternity to Vazquez.

“Three seconds is a lot as you get faster, but I knew I could do it if I was in the right race,” Vazquez said Monday. “I was lucky to be in a strong field of already decorated athletes who historically are faster than me, and I used them to pull me through the race to get the time I needed.”

Finally, on Saturday, June 16, Vazquez did it. He finished fifth in the race, but the time was all that matters.

Vazquez wrote on his Facebook account Sunday afternoon: “After all the struggles and ups and downs in the past 10 years, I can officially say that I fulfilled one of my dearest dreams. I am so blessed to represent my family’s country and will leave it all at the track. This would not be possible without the continuous support from family, friends and fans who kept believing in me. Thank you, Jesus, for listening to my prayers. London here I come!”

According to FPC Athletics Director Steve DeAugustino, Vazquez joins Eddie Johnson as the only FPC graduates to compete in the Olympics. Lester Watson was an alternate on the Army Greco wrestling team in the 1980s, but was not needed, DeAugustino confirmed.

Vazquez reflected Monday the sacrifices that he and his wife, Flo, have made over the past few years.

“She has supported me this past year more than anyone because she pushed me to chase this dream,” he said.

Training full time left no time for a full-time job, Vazquez said. Often times, bill went unpaid.

“Not paying bills would cause a marriage to fail but it has made us stronger and closer because we know that with a few sacrifices, big things will indeed happen, as I hope becoming an Olympian will make me more marketable to gain sponsors that will allow me to run as a career,” he said.

Vazquez said it will take “perfect racing strategies” to be competitive this summer. Vazquez also admitted that away from the track, he wants to be courageous and not to get star-struck while being around some of the best athletes in the world while in London.

No matter any outcome, though, one thing is for sure: Sam Vazquez will be Olympian when the games begin July 27.

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