Guatemalan Erick Barrondo strikes Pan American Games gold in the 20Km Race Walk in Guadalajara (Getty Images)
Guatemalan Erick Barrondo strikes Pan American Games gold in the 20Km Race Walk in Guadalajara (Getty Images)
  • COUNTRY Guatemala Guatemala
  • DATE OF BIRTH 14 JUN 1991

Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.


Updated 30 April 2014

 

Érick Bernabé BARRONDO, Guatemala (20km and 50km Race Walking)

Born 14 June 1991 in San Cristóbal, Alta Verapaz

Coach: Bohdan Bulakowski (Poland)

Born in San Cristóbal, Alta Verapaz, very close to the athletic city of Cobán, Barrondo soon showed his interest and conditions to become a high performance sportsman, first as a footballer and then as a long distance runner.

 

His parents, Bernardo Barrondo and Leticia García, were traditional participants at the Cobán International Half Marathon, Guatemala’s top road race. They both instilled in Erick the love for athletics together with Jorge Coy, his first coach. “They got me involved in sports as they were long distance runners. I started running with them to become a marathoner,” he recalled

 

After playing football in a plot of vacant land, kicking an orange as ball and improvised goals, Érick first learned of his potential during physical education lessons. He realised his endurance and speed made him among the best runners in his area.

 

During an edition of the Cobán Half Marathon, seeing a participant running with the “Guatemala” vest increased his motivation to tackle the 21 kilometers, training hard to cover the distance in a respectable time. However, a knee injury destroyed his dreams.

 

“Jorge started to make me do race walking as part of my rehabilitation, but I did not like it. I travelled to Guatemala City for a 10km competition in which I performed poorly. I finished fifth and cried,” confessed Barrondo, who eventually learned to enjoy the event.

 

At 18 years of age, Barrondo was spotted by Cuban coach Lino Rigoberto Medina, who had just been hired to lead the Guatemalan race walking team after working in El Salvador y Ecuador with good results. In July 2010, the young walker trained with the new coach for the first time at the Mateo Flores stadium in Guatemala City, the country’s top athletics facility.

 

At the time, race walking in Guatemala was going through difficult times, after no athlete had qualified to the Central American and Caribbean Games, in Mayagüez, while race walking had been the event where Guatemala had been more successful, with Julio René Martinez (who posted a World record time of 1:17.46, in 1999 over 20km) and Luis Fernando García (50km bronze medal at the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo).

 

“Érick was a child then. I knew he had what it takes to achieve great results and I brought him to the team, knowing we could soon revive race walking in this country with him,” stated Medina, who is nicknamed Maca by his friends.

 

On 19 November 2010, at the Cementos Progreso senior international meet, Érick achieved his first big result, completing 10,000m in 40:38.74, a new Guatemalan record and the second best junior mark in the world that year.

 

This fast time “arrived very early in my career, but it gave me a good indication of what I could achieve if I worked hard and gave my best in competition. That result was one of the things that pushed me to be a better walker,” he explained.

 

Exactly a month later, on 19 December, Érick impressed again in his first 20km race during a test organised by the Federación Nacional de Atletismo de Guatemala (FNA) on Avenida Reforma in Guatemala City. He won it in 1:23:16, thus securing his preliminary qualification for the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara.

 

Barrondo, who had been incorporated into the Guatemala team, started 2011 on a high note. On 27 February, he registered his first major international success, winning the Central American Cup in El Salvador in 1:24.34 in San Salvador, a performance which confirmed his qualification for the Pan American Games. “I was not satisfied because I knew I could do better, but what was important at the time was to confirm our great work with Maca, which many did not believe in,” he commented.

 

His progress continued on 26 March in Envigado, Colombia, at the Pan American Race Walking Cup, where he captured silver with 1:25:56, behind local walker Luis Fernando López, with whom he was to start a great sporting rivalry. “My nerves betrayed me a bit. I had trained to achieve a totally different result and a better time. But I knew I was on the right track and that I would have other opportunities to improve,” he confessed.

 

That opportunity arrived on 1 May 2011 at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Sesto San Giovanni, Italy, where he finished 13th in 1:24:32, getting closer to qualification for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

 

He achieved his Olympic dream during the Dublin Grand Prix on 26 June, where he finished fourth in 1:20.58, well inside the IAAF “A” standard of 1:22:30. That time allowed Guatemala to return to the Olympic 20km race walking after Martínez had last competed at the distance at the 2004 Games in Athens.

 

“Everything changed for me. A dream came true by making the standard and achieving something big like qualifying for the Olympic Games. That’s what I was pursuing all my life,” said Érick, whose desire to improve his marks prevented him from being totally satisfied with what he had achieved in Dublin. “I wanted to break the 1:20-hour barrier,” he said.

 

His next challenge was the 13th World Championships in Daegu, Korea. Érick and his countrywoman Jamy Amarilis Franco were aiming to establish themselves among the strongest on the planet and Barrondo set out to improve Guatemala’s best performance in World Championships history, a 12th place finish by Julio René Martínez at 50km walk in Helsinki 2005.

 

In addition to facing off with Colombian Luis Fernando López and Mexican Éder Sánchez for the Pan American supremacy, Barrondo also competed against elite athletes like Russia’s Valery Borchin and Vladimir Kanaykin.

 

Inexperience took a high toll on Érick, who went out too fast from the leading pack and as he could not sustain the fast pace. He was overtaken by the medal winners, including bronze medallist López. The Guatemalan finished 10th in 1:22:08.

 

“I am happy to be among the top 10 in the world, but I am not satisfied with the time. I failed mentally. I was let myself be overcome by emotions and my desire to win. It is undoubtedly a lesson learned for the future,” he reflected on his performance.

 

His most important race of the year came in October at the 15th Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Before the 2011 edition, Guatemala had only achieved seven gold medals and only one in athletics. It was won by Doroteo Guamuch Flores - known as Mateo Flores - in the marathon at the 1955 Games in Mexico City. Race Walkers had contributed with three bronze medals won by Julio Urías (50km) and Julio René Martínez (20km) in Mar del Plata 1995 as well as Luis Fernando García (50km) in Santo Domingo 2003.

 

On 23 October, on Avenida Vallarta in Guadalajara, Barrondo competed in the 20km, against Colombians Luis Fernando López and James Rendón and Mexico’s Éder Sánchez, and triumphed in a time of 1:21:51. The Pan American gold represented the greatest accomplishment that far in his sporting career, which he celebrated by crossing the finish line, draped in the Guatemalan flag and with his arms raised to the sky.

 

It capped a historic day for Guatemala, as earlier that day his teammates Jamy Amarilis Franco and Mirna Sucely Ortiz had taken golden and silver, achieving an unprecedented 1-2 in the women’s 20km. Six days later, Jaime Daniel Quiyuch walked to bronze in the 50km to seal a historic performance for Guatemalan athletics at the Pan American Games.

 

“Today, a small country like Guatemala has shown how great it can be. We Guatemalans arrived here hoping to win and we demonstrated what we can achieve when we aim for it. It is an immense joy and it is the best reward for all the hard work, efforts and dedication, as well as the work accomplished by coach Medina,” Barrondo said as a newly crowned continental champion.

 

Guatemalan society celebrated Barrondo’s success and those of his training partners and the rest of the national delegation in Guadalajara 2011. It increased interest in race walking among many children and youth, who wanted to follow up on his footsteps. The demonstration came a few weeks later, when Érick and the national team drew around 300 children and youth on Avenida Reforma in Guatemala City in an event designed to initiate them to race walking.

 

Several media outlets selected him among the best Guatemalan sportspeople in 2011 and the National Sportswriters Association (ACD) honoured him as country’s best sportsman of the year.

 

In 2012, Erick set himself several goals, including breaking 1:20 in the 20km race, an accomplishment which only one Guatemalan had achieved, Julio René Martínez, who did it four times between 1997 and 1999, including his 1:17:46 in 1999, a World record then and still standing as Central American and Caribbean and national record.

 

Before fully focusing on that goal, his coach Rigoberto Medina decided that his athlete should train and compete for a debut over 50km, as he was confident Erick could contest both distances at the London Olympics. The Cuban coach was right. At the 81st Spanish Championships in Pontevedra, Galicia, on 4 March, Érick made an impressive debut at the distance with a winning 3:44.59, over 14 minutes inside the IAAF ‘A’ Olympic standard. In the process, he broke Julio Urías’ 17-year old national record of 3:49:57.

 

“It has been one of the most important days in my life. I couldn’t find the words to describe the emotions I felt as I walked my first 50km. It gives me a lot of motivation to move forward and improve my times before the Olympics,” he commented.

 

Two weeks later, on 18 March, Barrondo and the Guatemalan team contested the 10th Lugano Trophy in Switzerland, one of the most historical and prestigious stops of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge. Érick returned to the 20km, with his mind set in improving his personal best.

 

Italy’s 2008 50km Olympic champion Alex Schwazer and Frenchman Yohan Diniz were in the fray against Érick, who had a great day and finished third behind them in 1:18:25, a massive personal best by over two minutes. He had achieved his goal and came within 39 seconds of Martínez’s national record. “I know I can improve my time even more,” were Érick’s first words to the national press celebrating his achievement. “Today we have shown once again that all the hard work we do with the team and our coach bears fruits,” he added.

 

As of 23 July, Barrondo was ranked eighth on the 2012 world lists, led by Schwazer with 1:17.30, and he was the fastest walker from the Americas that season.

 

Almost two months followed without competition, as Érick and the Guatemalan team focused on their conditioning first in Quetzaltenango, a city located 200 km west of Guatemala City and at over 2,000m above sea level. They followed it with a camp at sea level in Barcelona before the 2012 World Cup in Saransk, Russia.

 

Barrondo arrived in the Russian city as one of the top medal contenders in 20km, together with locals Valery Borchin, Andrey Krikov and Vladimir Kanaykin, as well as China’s Zhen Wang. However, the race on Bolshevistskaya avenue had a sad epilogue for Barrondo, as he was disqualified close to the 15km mark when he was in the leading pack.

 

“It was a tough moment, I have never been disqualified and it took me a while to accept it. I did not come to Russia to be disqualified but to fight hard for the top placings, and I was achieving it. Judges decided otherwise and it was a very painful feeling,” he admitted.

 

After Saransk, Barrondo and his training partners spent a great deal of time recovering physically and mentally, as well as fine tuning their preparation for the Olympics, where Jamy Amarilis Franco, Mirna Sucely Ortiz and Mayra Carolina Herrera in the women’s 20km and Jaime Daniel Quiyuch in 50km were also qualified.

 

Based on his achievements and progress, Érick was shortlisted by the Guatemalan Olympic Committee (COG) for the role of flag bearer for the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, together with gymnast Ana Sofía Gómez and sailor Juan Maegli, who was finally selected for this honour.

 

The young walker was confident that his preparation in the last months leading up to London would enable him to fight for a podium finish and end Guatemala’s 60-years’ medal drought, since the country’s Olympic debut at the 1952 Games in Helsinki.

 

“To sum it, all our hard training is aimed to peak on race day (4 August). What we have done before will be worth it if I can walk in the lead and be at the top level. There’s nothing else I want more in this world than a medal for me and my country,” Érick confessed before heading to London. Since I was a child I dream of competing for Guatemala at the Olympic Games, and this time I will have this opportunity in two events. I am confident I can do my best and return home successful,” he concluded.

 

His words seemed a harbinger of what would happen in London, where he again contended with the world’s top race walkers, with the powerful Russian and Chinese, to the take the lead. Erick fought bravely with defending Olympic champion Valeriy Borchin and Ding Chen to conquer a historic silver medal, allowing Guatemala to occupy a spot on the podium for the first time in the history of the Olympics.

 

A huge mix of feelings invaded him at the finish line, which he crossed at 1:18.57, and the first thing he did was look for Medina, his coach, among the spectators and merge into a huge hug.

 

"This is an unforgettable day for me, my family, my girlfriend and my country, it means an enormous happiness," said Erick, with many tears, when he received the medal which the Central American nation had awaited for 60 years. To us who are never woken by the sun, every day we went looking and found it. This is for life," was a phrase that Barrondo circulated worldwide to express his feelings to have seen a dream come true.

 

The excitement in his hometown and all the Guatemalan nation was the common theme in the days following his Olympic success. His arrival back to his country was an event that mobilised thousands of people in Guatemala City and San Cristobal Verapaz, his hometown, where he was greeted as a hero.

 

"This is the way many Guatemalans have always dreamed to be ... united by a joy, so hopefully we will know how to forever be a better country, a better society, better athletes and better human beings," he said with great eloquence addressing a crowd in Central Park at Guatemala City.

 

Barrondo received the Order of the Sovereign Congress, the most important award that a civilian can aspire to in Guatemala and recognitions from government authorities and many other people. No doubt his status changed to that of a personality recognised by his countrymen.

 

After a few months, in early 2013 the athlete and his teammates got back to competition with the idea of shining at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia. As expected his status as Olympic silver medallist, captured the attention of many in all places he went.

 

The first stop was in Slovakia, during the Dudince Grand Prix on 23 March, where Barrondo competed for the third time in his career at 50km and reached first place with a time of 3:41.09, broke his personal best, but also left behind the America's record (3:41.20) that had belonged from 1978 to Raul Gonzalez, of Mexico.

 

However, his return to the 20km was not successful, as disqualifications at the IAAF Challenge Trophy Lugano, in Switzerland (24 March) and Grand Prix of Rio Maior, in Portugal (6 April), forced him to work hard on his technique with Medina to keep intact their aims to earn gold in Moscow.

 

"I had to make changes, understanding I was wrong on my steps. Along with my coach we worked hard to improve, the World Championships means everything to me, not only for the chance to win a gold medal but to break the World Record," he said before the World Championships.

 

Together with Medina and his teammates, in July Barrondo left for Europe to settle in the Sierra Nevada, Spain, where he trained with energy before travelling to Ireland to win the Grand Prix in Dublin in 20km with 1:20.25, on 29 June.

 

This was his last competition before the most important one of the year which awaited in Moscow, where he again he again carried the hopes of a nation to reach the podium at the World Championships.

 

Barrondo, then barely 19 years old, had competed at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, where his inexperience cost him dearly, but had still reached the tenth place. Ahead of the 2013 edition, he was considered one of the favorites and was expected to fight again for the gold with Chen and the Russian stars.

 

"We know it´s very difficult to compete against the World's elite, but we are confident in our talent and have faith in God that we will take the fight to give another joy to Guatemala," he concluded before heading to the Russian capital.

 

However, the story did not end as he wanted in Moscow, where was in the leading pack and after 15 kilometres, when he was on the chase of eventual winner Russian Alexander Ivanov, Barrondo suffered the disqualification that ended his hopes.

 

"I knew I could finish on the podium, but did not want a silver medal again, I risked all and this was the result ... I have no regrets and if I have to do it again I won´t be scared," said Barrondo, who received the backing of many Guatemalans after his brave, non-conformist attitude.

 

After the World Championships, Barrondo refocused, but this time without the presence of coach Medina, who unexpectedly resigned, an event which affected the team and especially Érick. "It's a shame he leaves, but he has his reasons and now we have to move on, because this does not stop," he said after the news became public and he was forced to say goodbye to the man who had helped him become a figure of the global elite.

 

A few weeks later, Barrondo and with his teammates trained alone for the XVII Bolivarian Games in Trujillo, Peru, to which Guatemala was invited, and he lived up to his role as the favourite, winning the gold medal. The time of 1:23.25 was not what he had hoped, but the victory helped him to regain confidence and close the 2013 season on a positive note. "I wanted to give this medal to Guatemala, now I am thinking about the future and what it takes to improve," he said at the time.

 

In early 2014, Barrondo’s career took a major turn with the arrival as Guatemala´s new team coach of Bohdan Bulakowski from Poland. Bulakowski is one the fellow students of Jezry Haeusleber´s, and is remembered with great affection in Mexico after having groomed successful race walkers such as Raúl González or Carlos Mercenario. Bulakowski came with the commitment to improve the technique of Barrondo and his partners in order to avoid disqualifications and improve their chances in the upcoming events like the IAAF Race Walking Cup in Taicang, China, in May.

 

"I'm sure he will help us a lot in that aspect, you have to make adjustments to go faster," the athlete stated.

 

After several weeks of hard training in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango , the first test of 2014 for Barrondo was in Cochabamba, Bolivia, at the South American Championships, where he reach the silver medal (1: 26.42 ) after a very tough competition against Ecuadorian veteran Rolando Saquipay.

 

The next stage for him was in Switzerland at the Lugano IAAF Challenge Trophy, where his 14th position in 1:24.05 was a contrast to his impressive 2012 showing (1:18;25 PB for 3rd), but Barrondo did not consider this as a step back. "Many think that because I didn´t win a medal this is a failure, but Bohdan is teaching us new things and it takes time to get results," said Erick

 

Alongside Bulakowski, the race walker continued his road to the World Cup knowing that many eyes are on him and that he will again cross paths with Chinese stars Ding Chen and Zhen Wang , his podium partners in London 2012 Olympics. The challenge to be one of the world´s best was the main motivation for him along his training. "I know well what awaits me in Taicang, because of that my work has been more intense than ever, I trust in the work we´ve done with Bohdan to reach a final satisfaction," he said.

 

Personal Bests

10,000m – 40.38.74 (2010)

20km – 1:18:25 (2012)

50 km – 3:41:09 (2013) AR

 

Yearly Progression

20km: 2010: 1:23:16; 2011: 1:20:58; 2012: 1:18:25; 2013: 1:20.25; 2014: 1:24.05

50km: 2012: 3:44.59, 2013: 3:41.09; 2014: - 

 

Career Highlights

2010

1s

Cementos Progreso International Meet

10km

40:38.74

2010

1s

National Event (Guatemala City)

 20 km

1:23:16

2011

1s

Central American Cup (San Salvador)

20 km

1:24.34

2011

2nd

Pan American Cup (Envigado)

20 km

1:25:56

2011

13th

IAAF Challenge (Sesto San Giovanni)

20 km

1:24:32

2011

4th

Dublin Grand Prix (Dublin)

20 km

1:20.58

2011

10th

World Championships (Daegu)

20 km

1:22.08

2011

1s

Pan American Games (Guadalajara)

20 km

1:21:51

2012

1s

Spanish Championships (Pontevedra)

50 km

3:44.59

2012

3rd

IAAF Challenge Lugano Trophy

20 km

1:18:25

2012

DQ

World Race Walking Cup (Saransk)

20 km

 

2012

2nd

Olympic Games (London)

20 km

1:18.57

2013

1s

Dudince Grand Prix (Dudince)

50 km

3:41.09

2013

1s

Dublin Grand Prix (Dublin)

20 km

1:20.25

2013

DQ

World Championships (Moscow)

20 km

 

2014

2nd

South American Championships (Cochabamba)

20 km

1;26:42A

2014

14th

IAAF Challenge Lugano Trophy

20 km

1:24.05

  

Prepared by Fernando Ruiz del Valle for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2012-2014

 

Personal Best - Outdoor
Performance Wind Place Date
10,000 Metres Race Walk 40:10.73 Ciudad de Guatemala (Mateo Flores) 25 OCT 2013
10 Kilometres Race Walk 40:08 London (The Mall) 04 AUG 2012
20 Kilometres Race Walk 1:18:25 Lugano 18 MAR 2012
35 Kilometres Race Walk 2:32:26 London (The Mall) 11 AUG 2012
50 Kilometres Race Walk 3:41:09 Dudince 23 MAR 2013
Progression - Outdoor showShow All Graphs
10,000 Metres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2013 40:10.73 Ciudad de Guatemala (Mateo Flores) 25 OCT
2010 40:38.74 Ciudad de Guatemala (Mateo Flores) 19 NOV
10 Kilometres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2012 40:08 London (The Mall) 04 AUG
20 Kilometres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2014 1:21:14 La Coruña 31 MAY
2013 1:20:25 Dublin (St Anne's Park) 29 JUN
2012 1:18:25 Lugano 18 MAR
2011 1:20:58 Dublin 26 JUN
35 Kilometres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2012 2:32:26 London (The Mall) 11 AUG
50 Kilometres Race Walk Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2013 3:41:09 Dudince 23 MAR
2012 3:44:59 Pontevedra 04 MAR
Honours - 20 Kilometres Race Walk
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
14th IAAF World Championships f DQ R230.6(a) Moskva (Luzhniki) 11 AUG 2013
The XXX Olympic Games 2 1:18:57 London (The Mall) 04 AUG 2012
IAAF World Race Walking Cup 2012 f DQ Saransk 12 MAY 2012
13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 10 1:22:08 Daegu 28 AUG 2011
Honours - 50 Kilometres Race Walk
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
The XXX Olympic Games f DQ London (The Mall) 11 AUG 2012

Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.


Updated 30 April 2014

 

Érick Bernabé BARRONDO, Guatemala (20km and 50km Race Walking)

Born 14 June 1991 in San Cristóbal, Alta Verapaz

Coach: Bohdan Bulakowski (Poland)

Born in San Cristóbal, Alta Verapaz, very close to the athletic city of Cobán, Barrondo soon showed his interest and conditions to become a high performance sportsman, first as a footballer and then as a long distance runner.

 

His parents, Bernardo Barrondo and Leticia García, were traditional participants at the Cobán International Half Marathon, Guatemala’s top road race. They both instilled in Erick the love for athletics together with Jorge Coy, his first coach. “They got me involved in sports as they were long distance runners. I started running with them to become a marathoner,” he recalled

 

After playing football in a plot of vacant land, kicking an orange as ball and improvised goals, Érick first learned of his potential during physical education lessons. He realised his endurance and speed made him among the best runners in his area.

 

During an edition of the Cobán Half Marathon, seeing a participant running with the “Guatemala” vest increased his motivation to tackle the 21 kilometers, training hard to cover the distance in a respectable time. However, a knee injury destroyed his dreams.

 

“Jorge started to make me do race walking as part of my rehabilitation, but I did not like it. I travelled to Guatemala City for a 10km competition in which I performed poorly. I finished fifth and cried,” confessed Barrondo, who eventually learned to enjoy the event.

 

At 18 years of age, Barrondo was spotted by Cuban coach Lino Rigoberto Medina, who had just been hired to lead the Guatemalan race walking team after working in El Salvador y Ecuador with good results. In July 2010, the young walker trained with the new coach for the first time at the Mateo Flores stadium in Guatemala City, the country’s top athletics facility.

 

At the time, race walking in Guatemala was going through difficult times, after no athlete had qualified to the Central American and Caribbean Games, in Mayagüez, while race walking had been the event where Guatemala had been more successful, with Julio René Martinez (who posted a World record time of 1:17.46, in 1999 over 20km) and Luis Fernando García (50km bronze medal at the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo).

 

“Érick was a child then. I knew he had what it takes to achieve great results and I brought him to the team, knowing we could soon revive race walking in this country with him,” stated Medina, who is nicknamed Maca by his friends.

 

On 19 November 2010, at the Cementos Progreso senior international meet, Érick achieved his first big result, completing 10,000m in 40:38.74, a new Guatemalan record and the second best junior mark in the world that year.

 

This fast time “arrived very early in my career, but it gave me a good indication of what I could achieve if I worked hard and gave my best in competition. That result was one of the things that pushed me to be a better walker,” he explained.

 

Exactly a month later, on 19 December, Érick impressed again in his first 20km race during a test organised by the Federación Nacional de Atletismo de Guatemala (FNA) on Avenida Reforma in Guatemala City. He won it in 1:23:16, thus securing his preliminary qualification for the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara.

 

Barrondo, who had been incorporated into the Guatemala team, started 2011 on a high note. On 27 February, he registered his first major international success, winning the Central American Cup in El Salvador in 1:24.34 in San Salvador, a performance which confirmed his qualification for the Pan American Games. “I was not satisfied because I knew I could do better, but what was important at the time was to confirm our great work with Maca, which many did not believe in,” he commented.

 

His progress continued on 26 March in Envigado, Colombia, at the Pan American Race Walking Cup, where he captured silver with 1:25:56, behind local walker Luis Fernando López, with whom he was to start a great sporting rivalry. “My nerves betrayed me a bit. I had trained to achieve a totally different result and a better time. But I knew I was on the right track and that I would have other opportunities to improve,” he confessed.

 

That opportunity arrived on 1 May 2011 at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Sesto San Giovanni, Italy, where he finished 13th in 1:24:32, getting closer to qualification for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

 

He achieved his Olympic dream during the Dublin Grand Prix on 26 June, where he finished fourth in 1:20.58, well inside the IAAF “A” standard of 1:22:30. That time allowed Guatemala to return to the Olympic 20km race walking after Martínez had last competed at the distance at the 2004 Games in Athens.

 

“Everything changed for me. A dream came true by making the standard and achieving something big like qualifying for the Olympic Games. That’s what I was pursuing all my life,” said Érick, whose desire to improve his marks prevented him from being totally satisfied with what he had achieved in Dublin. “I wanted to break the 1:20-hour barrier,” he said.

 

His next challenge was the 13th World Championships in Daegu, Korea. Érick and his countrywoman Jamy Amarilis Franco were aiming to establish themselves among the strongest on the planet and Barrondo set out to improve Guatemala’s best performance in World Championships history, a 12th place finish by Julio René Martínez at 50km walk in Helsinki 2005.

 

In addition to facing off with Colombian Luis Fernando López and Mexican Éder Sánchez for the Pan American supremacy, Barrondo also competed against elite athletes like Russia’s Valery Borchin and Vladimir Kanaykin.

 

Inexperience took a high toll on Érick, who went out too fast from the leading pack and as he could not sustain the fast pace. He was overtaken by the medal winners, including bronze medallist López. The Guatemalan finished 10th in 1:22:08.

 

“I am happy to be among the top 10 in the world, but I am not satisfied with the time. I failed mentally. I was let myself be overcome by emotions and my desire to win. It is undoubtedly a lesson learned for the future,” he reflected on his performance.

 

His most important race of the year came in October at the 15th Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Before the 2011 edition, Guatemala had only achieved seven gold medals and only one in athletics. It was won by Doroteo Guamuch Flores - known as Mateo Flores - in the marathon at the 1955 Games in Mexico City. Race Walkers had contributed with three bronze medals won by Julio Urías (50km) and Julio René Martínez (20km) in Mar del Plata 1995 as well as Luis Fernando García (50km) in Santo Domingo 2003.

 

On 23 October, on Avenida Vallarta in Guadalajara, Barrondo competed in the 20km, against Colombians Luis Fernando López and James Rendón and Mexico’s Éder Sánchez, and triumphed in a time of 1:21:51. The Pan American gold represented the greatest accomplishment that far in his sporting career, which he celebrated by crossing the finish line, draped in the Guatemalan flag and with his arms raised to the sky.

 

It capped a historic day for Guatemala, as earlier that day his teammates Jamy Amarilis Franco and Mirna Sucely Ortiz had taken golden and silver, achieving an unprecedented 1-2 in the women’s 20km. Six days later, Jaime Daniel Quiyuch walked to bronze in the 50km to seal a historic performance for Guatemalan athletics at the Pan American Games.

 

“Today, a small country like Guatemala has shown how great it can be. We Guatemalans arrived here hoping to win and we demonstrated what we can achieve when we aim for it. It is an immense joy and it is the best reward for all the hard work, efforts and dedication, as well as the work accomplished by coach Medina,” Barrondo said as a newly crowned continental champion.

 

Guatemalan society celebrated Barrondo’s success and those of his training partners and the rest of the national delegation in Guadalajara 2011. It increased interest in race walking among many children and youth, who wanted to follow up on his footsteps. The demonstration came a few weeks later, when Érick and the national team drew around 300 children and youth on Avenida Reforma in Guatemala City in an event designed to initiate them to race walking.

 

Several media outlets selected him among the best Guatemalan sportspeople in 2011 and the National Sportswriters Association (ACD) honoured him as country’s best sportsman of the year.

 

In 2012, Erick set himself several goals, including breaking 1:20 in the 20km race, an accomplishment which only one Guatemalan had achieved, Julio René Martínez, who did it four times between 1997 and 1999, including his 1:17:46 in 1999, a World record then and still standing as Central American and Caribbean and national record.

 

Before fully focusing on that goal, his coach Rigoberto Medina decided that his athlete should train and compete for a debut over 50km, as he was confident Erick could contest both distances at the London Olympics. The Cuban coach was right. At the 81st Spanish Championships in Pontevedra, Galicia, on 4 March, Érick made an impressive debut at the distance with a winning 3:44.59, over 14 minutes inside the IAAF ‘A’ Olympic standard. In the process, he broke Julio Urías’ 17-year old national record of 3:49:57.

 

“It has been one of the most important days in my life. I couldn’t find the words to describe the emotions I felt as I walked my first 50km. It gives me a lot of motivation to move forward and improve my times before the Olympics,” he commented.

 

Two weeks later, on 18 March, Barrondo and the Guatemalan team contested the 10th Lugano Trophy in Switzerland, one of the most historical and prestigious stops of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge. Érick returned to the 20km, with his mind set in improving his personal best.

 

Italy’s 2008 50km Olympic champion Alex Schwazer and Frenchman Yohan Diniz were in the fray against Érick, who had a great day and finished third behind them in 1:18:25, a massive personal best by over two minutes. He had achieved his goal and came within 39 seconds of Martínez’s national record. “I know I can improve my time even more,” were Érick’s first words to the national press celebrating his achievement. “Today we have shown once again that all the hard work we do with the team and our coach bears fruits,” he added.

 

As of 23 July, Barrondo was ranked eighth on the 2012 world lists, led by Schwazer with 1:17.30, and he was the fastest walker from the Americas that season.

 

Almost two months followed without competition, as Érick and the Guatemalan team focused on their conditioning first in Quetzaltenango, a city located 200 km west of Guatemala City and at over 2,000m above sea level. They followed it with a camp at sea level in Barcelona before the 2012 World Cup in Saransk, Russia.

 

Barrondo arrived in the Russian city as one of the top medal contenders in 20km, together with locals Valery Borchin, Andrey Krikov and Vladimir Kanaykin, as well as China’s Zhen Wang. However, the race on Bolshevistskaya avenue had a sad epilogue for Barrondo, as he was disqualified close to the 15km mark when he was in the leading pack.

 

“It was a tough moment, I have never been disqualified and it took me a while to accept it. I did not come to Russia to be disqualified but to fight hard for the top placings, and I was achieving it. Judges decided otherwise and it was a very painful feeling,” he admitted.

 

After Saransk, Barrondo and his training partners spent a great deal of time recovering physically and mentally, as well as fine tuning their preparation for the Olympics, where Jamy Amarilis Franco, Mirna Sucely Ortiz and Mayra Carolina Herrera in the women’s 20km and Jaime Daniel Quiyuch in 50km were also qualified.

 

Based on his achievements and progress, Érick was shortlisted by the Guatemalan Olympic Committee (COG) for the role of flag bearer for the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, together with gymnast Ana Sofía Gómez and sailor Juan Maegli, who was finally selected for this honour.

 

The young walker was confident that his preparation in the last months leading up to London would enable him to fight for a podium finish and end Guatemala’s 60-years’ medal drought, since the country’s Olympic debut at the 1952 Games in Helsinki.

 

“To sum it, all our hard training is aimed to peak on race day (4 August). What we have done before will be worth it if I can walk in the lead and be at the top level. There’s nothing else I want more in this world than a medal for me and my country,” Érick confessed before heading to London. Since I was a child I dream of competing for Guatemala at the Olympic Games, and this time I will have this opportunity in two events. I am confident I can do my best and return home successful,” he concluded.

 

His words seemed a harbinger of what would happen in London, where he again contended with the world’s top race walkers, with the powerful Russian and Chinese, to the take the lead. Erick fought bravely with defending Olympic champion Valeriy Borchin and Ding Chen to conquer a historic silver medal, allowing Guatemala to occupy a spot on the podium for the first time in the history of the Olympics.

 

A huge mix of feelings invaded him at the finish line, which he crossed at 1:18.57, and the first thing he did was look for Medina, his coach, among the spectators and merge into a huge hug.

 

"This is an unforgettable day for me, my family, my girlfriend and my country, it means an enormous happiness," said Erick, with many tears, when he received the medal which the Central American nation had awaited for 60 years. To us who are never woken by the sun, every day we went looking and found it. This is for life," was a phrase that Barrondo circulated worldwide to express his feelings to have seen a dream come true.

 

The excitement in his hometown and all the Guatemalan nation was the common theme in the days following his Olympic success. His arrival back to his country was an event that mobilised thousands of people in Guatemala City and San Cristobal Verapaz, his hometown, where he was greeted as a hero.

 

"This is the way many Guatemalans have always dreamed to be ... united by a joy, so hopefully we will know how to forever be a better country, a better society, better athletes and better human beings," he said with great eloquence addressing a crowd in Central Park at Guatemala City.

 

Barrondo received the Order of the Sovereign Congress, the most important award that a civilian can aspire to in Guatemala and recognitions from government authorities and many other people. No doubt his status changed to that of a personality recognised by his countrymen.

 

After a few months, in early 2013 the athlete and his teammates got back to competition with the idea of shining at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia. As expected his status as Olympic silver medallist, captured the attention of many in all places he went.

 

The first stop was in Slovakia, during the Dudince Grand Prix on 23 March, where Barrondo competed for the third time in his career at 50km and reached first place with a time of 3:41.09, broke his personal best, but also left behind the America's record (3:41.20) that had belonged from 1978 to Raul Gonzalez, of Mexico.

 

However, his return to the 20km was not successful, as disqualifications at the IAAF Challenge Trophy Lugano, in Switzerland (24 March) and Grand Prix of Rio Maior, in Portugal (6 April), forced him to work hard on his technique with Medina to keep intact their aims to earn gold in Moscow.

 

"I had to make changes, understanding I was wrong on my steps. Along with my coach we worked hard to improve, the World Championships means everything to me, not only for the chance to win a gold medal but to break the World Record," he said before the World Championships.

 

Together with Medina and his teammates, in July Barrondo left for Europe to settle in the Sierra Nevada, Spain, where he trained with energy before travelling to Ireland to win the Grand Prix in Dublin in 20km with 1:20.25, on 29 June.

 

This was his last competition before the most important one of the year which awaited in Moscow, where he again he again carried the hopes of a nation to reach the podium at the World Championships.

 

Barrondo, then barely 19 years old, had competed at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, where his inexperience cost him dearly, but had still reached the tenth place. Ahead of the 2013 edition, he was considered one of the favorites and was expected to fight again for the gold with Chen and the Russian stars.

 

"We know it´s very difficult to compete against the World's elite, but we are confident in our talent and have faith in God that we will take the fight to give another joy to Guatemala," he concluded before heading to the Russian capital.

 

However, the story did not end as he wanted in Moscow, where was in the leading pack and after 15 kilometres, when he was on the chase of eventual winner Russian Alexander Ivanov, Barrondo suffered the disqualification that ended his hopes.

 

"I knew I could finish on the podium, but did not want a silver medal again, I risked all and this was the result ... I have no regrets and if I have to do it again I won´t be scared," said Barrondo, who received the backing of many Guatemalans after his brave, non-conformist attitude.

 

After the World Championships, Barrondo refocused, but this time without the presence of coach Medina, who unexpectedly resigned, an event which affected the team and especially Érick. "It's a shame he leaves, but he has his reasons and now we have to move on, because this does not stop," he said after the news became public and he was forced to say goodbye to the man who had helped him become a figure of the global elite.

 

A few weeks later, Barrondo and with his teammates trained alone for the XVII Bolivarian Games in Trujillo, Peru, to which Guatemala was invited, and he lived up to his role as the favourite, winning the gold medal. The time of 1:23.25 was not what he had hoped, but the victory helped him to regain confidence and close the 2013 season on a positive note. "I wanted to give this medal to Guatemala, now I am thinking about the future and what it takes to improve," he said at the time.

 

In early 2014, Barrondo’s career took a major turn with the arrival as Guatemala´s new team coach of Bohdan Bulakowski from Poland. Bulakowski is one the fellow students of Jezry Haeusleber´s, and is remembered with great affection in Mexico after having groomed successful race walkers such as Raúl González or Carlos Mercenario. Bulakowski came with the commitment to improve the technique of Barrondo and his partners in order to avoid disqualifications and improve their chances in the upcoming events like the IAAF Race Walking Cup in Taicang, China, in May.

 

"I'm sure he will help us a lot in that aspect, you have to make adjustments to go faster," the athlete stated.

 

After several weeks of hard training in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango , the first test of 2014 for Barrondo was in Cochabamba, Bolivia, at the South American Championships, where he reach the silver medal (1: 26.42 ) after a very tough competition against Ecuadorian veteran Rolando Saquipay.

 

The next stage for him was in Switzerland at the Lugano IAAF Challenge Trophy, where his 14th position in 1:24.05 was a contrast to his impressive 2012 showing (1:18;25 PB for 3rd), but Barrondo did not consider this as a step back. "Many think that because I didn´t win a medal this is a failure, but Bohdan is teaching us new things and it takes time to get results," said Erick

 

Alongside Bulakowski, the race walker continued his road to the World Cup knowing that many eyes are on him and that he will again cross paths with Chinese stars Ding Chen and Zhen Wang , his podium partners in London 2012 Olympics. The challenge to be one of the world´s best was the main motivation for him along his training. "I know well what awaits me in Taicang, because of that my work has been more intense than ever, I trust in the work we´ve done with Bohdan to reach a final satisfaction," he said.

 

Personal Bests

10,000m – 40.38.74 (2010)

20km – 1:18:25 (2012)

50 km – 3:41:09 (2013) AR

 

Yearly Progression

20km: 2010: 1:23:16; 2011: 1:20:58; 2012: 1:18:25; 2013: 1:20.25; 2014: 1:24.05

50km: 2012: 3:44.59, 2013: 3:41.09; 2014: - 

 

Career Highlights

2010

1s

Cementos Progreso International Meet

10km

40:38.74

2010

1s

National Event (Guatemala City)

 20 km

1:23:16

2011

1s

Central American Cup (San Salvador)

20 km

1:24.34

2011

2nd

Pan American Cup (Envigado)

20 km

1:25:56

2011

13th

IAAF Challenge (Sesto San Giovanni)

20 km

1:24:32

2011

4th

Dublin Grand Prix (Dublin)

20 km

1:20.58

2011

10th

World Championships (Daegu)

20 km

1:22.08

2011

1s

Pan American Games (Guadalajara)

20 km

1:21:51

2012

1s

Spanish Championships (Pontevedra)

50 km

3:44.59

2012

3rd

IAAF Challenge Lugano Trophy

20 km

1:18:25

2012

DQ

World Race Walking Cup (Saransk)

20 km

 

2012

2nd

Olympic Games (London)

20 km

1:18.57

2013

1s

Dudince Grand Prix (Dudince)

50 km

3:41.09

2013

1s

Dublin Grand Prix (Dublin)

20 km

1:20.25

2013

DQ

World Championships (Moscow)

20 km

 

2014

2nd

South American Championships (Cochabamba)

20 km

1;26:42A

2014

14th

IAAF Challenge Lugano Trophy

20 km

1:24.05

  

Prepared by Fernando Ruiz del Valle for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2012-2014