Updated 21 August 2007
Ana Gabriela GUEVARA Espinoza, Mexico (400 metres)
Born 4 March 1977, Nogales, Sonora state, México; 1.74m, 65kg
Lives in Mexico DF
Coach: Raúl Barreda
Ana Guevara became one of the icons of Mexican sport after winning the 400 metres gold medal at the 2003 World Championships, in Paris, and her Olympic silver medal run in Athens in 2004. Besides that, she managed to elevate women from a lower position in Mexican society, and now she is compared to the great sport stars of the country – such as soccer player Hugo Sánchez, baseball player Fernando Valenzuela, and boxer Julio César Chávez.
The strong girl from Nogales, in Sonora State, had dreamed of glory - but she had imagined it playing basketball. Guevara always loved that sport. Her idol was Michael Jordan and she succeeded in being part of the Sonora Team. At that time, she wanted to represent Mexico, or to play at the WNBA, but she could not make it.
In 1996 Guevara was invited to compete in the Junior National Games. Although she knew nothing about athletics, she won the 400 and 800 metres. So, she was chosen to take part in the 4x400m relay at the Youth Ibero American Championships and her dream of representing Mexico came true. After that, she attained the minimum standard for the 1996 World Junior Championships, in Sydney, where she decided to take athletics seriously. Back home, she met Raúl Barreda, her coach, who told her that she could become a world champion.
To quit basketball was the most difficult decision of Guevara’s life. Moreover, it was hard to attract sponsors to pay for her training. As nobody went for her, she had her hair dyed in green to attract attention.
That was the first step she took in the fight for women’s rights in Mexico and to achieve the same support as long distance runners and walkers. But it was not until after she won the Pan American Games, in Winnipeg, in 1999, that she finally attracted media attention. Maybe this can explain why her favourite book is called “World belongs to you, but you have to gain it,” written by Korean Kim Wo Chong.
In 2000, Guevara was 5th in the Olympic Games in Sydney, where she had promised to return after the World Junior Championships there. That remarkable experience of competing against Australian home country gold medallist Cathy Freeman would be unforgettable for her. Also, she entered into the 400 metres elite group and has not left since.
In 2001, Guevara won the bronze medal at the World Championships, in Edmonton, the first podium place for a Mexican woman at such a big event. She started to build a very special relationship with the people of her country as that race in Canada would be the last competition she would lose for almost three years.
In 2002 Guevara achieved seven victories in the Golden League, sharing the 50kg golden jackpot with Marion Jones, Hicham El Guerrouj and Félix Sánchez. By that time, Europe had come to consider her as one of the world’s main athletes. The image of her right biceps appeared for the first time during this season and became a characteristic picture of her.
Guevara was unbeatable but she had not raced Freeman since Sydney 2000. In 2003, they met in a 300 metres race in Mexico DF, with an easy victory for the home runner. Guevara was obsessed with reaching the 48 seconds mark and she finally accomplished it during the 2003 World Championships in Paris. She not only succeeded in achieving it – 48.89 - but also was the first Mexican woman to win an athletics world title. Furthermore, her time ranked her as the eighth quickest woman in history.
Guevara’s record of 29 straight victories ended in 2004, when she was defeated by Tonique Williams in the Golden League of Rome. In the Athens Olympic Games, she achieved the first Mexican podium for a woman athlete, winning the silver medal with 49.56, behind Williams (49.41). Although Guevara had promised not to cry in front of the TV cameras, she could not prevent her tears from falling because of the emotion she felt.
Mexico and its 100 million inhabitants were paralysed during the race. Once back at home in Nogales, people not only organised a three-hour caravan headed by a fire truck, but built her a statue as well. Guevara shared that experience with her parents and her three brothers and one sister.
In 2005, Guevara suffered a lot of injuries but managed to get in shape for the World Championships, in Helsinki. She won the bronze medal, her third consecutive podium in the discipline at the World Championships. In 2006, she could not train very well, but succeeded in winning the Central America & Caribbean Games in Cartagena, Colombia. In 2007, Guevara won her third consecutive title at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Ana spends her spare time playing golf and editing a photography book about her career.
400m: 1996: 54.75a; 1997: 52.46; 1998: 50.65; 1999: 50.70; 2000: 49.70a/49.96; 2001: 49.97; 2002: 49.16; 2003: 48.89; 2004: 49.53; 2005: 49.81; 2006: 50.43; 2007: 50.34
200m: 23.78a (1998)
300m: 35.30a (2003), 35.92 (2001)
400m: 48.89 (2003)
800m: 2:01.12 (1998)
1998 1st Ibero American Championships (Lisbon) 50.65
2nd Central America & Caribbean Games (Maracaibo) 51.32
1999 4th World Indoor Championships (Maebashi) 51.55i
1st Pan American Games (Winnipeg) 50.91
6th World Championships (Sevilla) 50.70
2000 5th Olympic Games (Sydney) 49.96
5th Grand Prix Final (Doha) 51.22
2001 3rd World Championships (Edmonton) 49.97
1st Goodwill Games (Brisbane) 50.32
2002 1st Weltklasse (Zurich) 49.16
1st Grand Prix Final (Paris) 49.90
1st World Cup (Madrid) 49.56
1st Central America & Caribbean Games (San Salvador) 51.87
2003 1st Pan American Games (Santo Domingo) 50.36
1st Weltklasse (Zurich) 49.11
1st World Championships (Paris) 48.89
1st Grand Prix Final (Monaco) 49.34
2004 2nd Olympic Games (Athens) 49.56
1st Grand Prix Final (Monaco) 50.13
2005 3rd World Championships (Helsinki) 49.81
2006 1st Central America & Caribbean Games (Cartagena) 50.99
2007 1st Pan American Games (Rio de Janeiro) 50.34
Prepared by Víctor Pochat for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. © IAAF 2007.