IAAF Golden League Jackpot and World Cup winner, Mexico's Ana Gabriela Guevara was honoured as the best Latin American sportswoman of 2002, in a lovely ceremony held at Havana's Hotel Nacional last Friday, 24 January.
On one of the coldest days in the Cuban capital in the last few years, the 25-year old from the northern Mexican state of Sonora received the distinction as the region's new athletic star.
Pedro Margolles, General Director of the Prensa Latina News Agency, the organizer of the event, awarded the trophy to Guevara, who was also the distinguished guest of honour at the Hotel Nacional and received a painting by the Cuban artist Carlos Reyes.
”I would like to thank everyone deep in my heart for this award. I have lately enjoyed very happy days and I am so excited to now review my most successful year and months of training. Special thanks go to my coach, Raul Barreda, present here today, whose guidance has been key to achieve such outstanding results", confirmed Guevara.
Since finishing fifth in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and grabbing the bronze medal at the 2001 Edmonton World Championships, she has had an impeccable 2002, winning all the 12 individual and the two relay finals she entered.
Last year, Guevara along with the Dominican Republic's 2001 World 400m Hurdles champion Felix Sanchez were the first Latin American athletes to claim a share in the IAAF Golden League Jackpot. The Mexican “Aztec Queen” she has been dubbed, went on to win the 400m at the IAAF Grand Prix Final and to take a golden double - 400m and 4x400 metre relay - at both the IAAF World Cup in Madrid, and the Central American Games in El Salvador.
With nine times under 50 seconds and a season average of 49.84 for the one lap race, she clocked 49.16 in Zurich on August 15 to become the 11th fastest woman ever over the distance.
"I feel home here and I want to congratulate all the athletes who have given their best, and we'll continue to work hard for Mexico, Latin America and our continent", she commented.
Mariachi music and "My Way", one of her favourite songs, were also part of a Gala, at which she obtained a record 101 votes of 111 media groups from 25 countries, in the 39th edition of the Prensa Latina survey.
Of the other 10 sports stars who received diplomas: from athletics, the Cubans Osleidys Menendez – 2002 Cuban sportswoman of the year - and Anier García were also honoured.
The Gala was attended by Cuban Olympic Committee President José Ramón Fernández, Cuban Sports Minister Humberto Rodriguez, the Mexican Ambassador to Cuba Roberta Lajous, and the Cuban Olympic medallists Garcia, Javier Sotomayor, and Enrique Figuerola, the first athlete to win the award in 1964.
Current World Hammer champion Yipsi Moreno, and the 1999 400m Hurdles World gold medalist Daimí Pernía, were also present.
Guevara will stay two weeks in Cuba training for the 2003 season, due to start in Mexico City on May 3, and with her three main goals for the season being, the Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, the World Championships in Paris and setting a sub 49 second performance.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF