Updated 7 May 2010
Eder Heraclio SÁNCHEZ TERÁN, Mexico (20km Race Walk)
Born: 21 May 1986, Tlalnepantla, Estado de México
Lives: Estado de México, México.
Coaches: Victor Manuel Sánchez Guerrero
Before he was born, race walking was already in his veins. For World bronze medalist Eder Sánchez, athletics has been part of a long and successful story for generations in his family. His father and coach, Victor Sánchez, was a silver medalist at the Pan American Race Walking Cup in Bucaramanga 1984; his mother, and first coach, Graciela Terán, became the first Mexican female coach who qualified an athlete to an Olympic Games (David Mejia in Beijing 2008); his uncle, Joel Sánchez, was 50km bronze medalist at the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000; and his aunt Rosario Sánchez was the winner at the Pan American Race Walking Cup 2003 and silver medalist at the Pan American Games in Montreal 1999.
For Eder it was just a matter of time before he started race walking; athletics was waiting for him; waiting for his dedication, and his efforts, because his heart was part of it. At the National Junior Olympics – an annual multisport event that has been held for 15 years in Mexico – Sánchez won for four consecutive seasons from 2002 to 2005. With a big love for athletics, and for electronic music too, it was fun to compete with the beat of his favorite songs and win with this ‘help’!
“I felt so good to see my work was starting to give me gold medals; and it was nice to have a song in my mind to put some beat in my competition; since I’m 9-years-old I like electronic music. No one in my family likes it, just me; I don’t know how or why, it just makes me feel wonderful. But my parents showed me how far I could go in race walking, and that if I was hoping to go far, I had big efforts to make, for example leaving the music aside”, said Sánchez, who admits that his idol is not a sportsman but the English DJ, John Digweed and likes to play as a DJ himself.
Sánchez lives with his family in Tlalnepantla, a village to the north of Mexico City. The home economics was not good enough to buy the right sport shoes periodically so he decided to join the Mexican Army, a job that would let him not only earn a salary but also keep on training.
Since good results as a junior would soon arrive, Sánchez felt he had taken the right decision. In 2004 he won the silver medal at the World Race Walking Cup (10km) and finished fourth at the World Junior Championships, in Grosseto, Italy.
The 2005 season was the first major step to make his mark in senior competitions. By placing fifth at IAAF Race Walking Challenge leg in Tijuana, Mexico, in March, the 19-year-old race walker, still a junior, made the team for the World Championships in Helsinki. The following month, at the Race Walking Challenge leg in Cixi, China, Eder broke the Area Junior record at 20km, with 1:19.02; and finally, in August, in Finland, he finished 8th at 20km in Helsinki 2005, second Latin American race walker behind World Champion, Ecuadorian Jefferson Pérez.
“That was one of the biggest moments in my life. My first World Champs! I was very nervous, and my father was telling me everything, like the time I had to make each kilometer, the situations I would probably see at the competition; it was a great experience”, remembers Eder Heraclio, smiling.
As his responsibilities increased, everybody expected him to attain great results. Therefore the 2006 season was really difficult. On the one hand he could not finish at the World Race Walking Cup, in La Coruña, as he fainted at the 19th kilometre because of dehydration. On the other hand, he was second at the Central American & Caribbean Games, in Cartagena, and his performance was considered a complete failure, as it was the first time that Mexico lost the gold at this race walking event at the CAC Games.
“For some reason, I was told I had to go there only two weeks before,” Sánchez said. “Nevertheless I was only surpassed by the local athlete, Luis Fernando López, who was used to dealing with common high temperatures of the city. I don’t think it was a bad performance.”
Once again, due to political disagreements between Mexican sporting entities, the final criteria to qualify for the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro did not benefit Sánchez. “That year I had won in Krakow, Poland, defeating Paquillo (Francisco Fernández), and being the only Mexican to win a leg of the IAAF Challenge outside our nation,” he said. “Besides, I had walked three times under 1:21:00. Anyway, I was not chosen to go.” Time would prove he was right. A few weeks later he finished fourth at World Championships, in Osaka.
In 2008, the eyes of Mexican race walking were watching Eder and his results in the first part of the season were excellent. He started by winning the first leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Chihuahua, defeating Jefferson Pérez and Francisco Fernández. Later, he went to Beijing, where he competed at the official inauguration of the Olympic Stadium, placing third (1:20:57).
However, Sánchez’s most important achievement of the year, prior to the Olympics, would take place in Cheboksary, during the World Race Walking Cup. He managed to win the bronze medal (the first Mexican podium after Alejandro López in 2002) with a PB 1:18:34. Moreover, he began to be considered a natural candidate to win a place on the Beijing podium and one of the biggest Mexican hopes to attain an Olympic medal at any sport.
Disappointingly, in spite of having earned his place among the race walking elite, Eder could only manage 15th place at the Beijing Games, in difficult circumstances.
However, good athletes realise that a victory doesn’t have to change you, but a loss has to. It happened to Eder after the substandard result in Beijing 2008; Mexican society had his hopes on him, and with the 15th place, the critics started.
“It was difficult. Many people, journalist, athletes, trainers…everybody was talking, that I was lost, that I was afraid to compete at the Olympics, many things; but in the end, I saw I don’t have to listen to all the opinions, and I don’t have to explain my situation to all the people; the best way to show who I really am is to be focused in my goals”.
He walked, he competed, and he learned. 2009 was the opportunity: for Eder or for those who wouldn’t believe in him; one of them would be proved right. The next ‘big test’ for Eder was at the World Championships in Berlin. All the ‘ghosts’ around had to be dispelled. And they were! Eder crossed the Brandenburg Gate in third place, behind Russian Valery Borchin, and Chinese Hao Wang
In Berlin, Eder became the first Mexican race walker to make the podium at a World Championships after eight years without a medal. But the entire season was amazing for Sánchez, who was named ‘Best World Race Walker of the Year’. He stepped on the podium in all four Race Walking Challenge events in which he competed (first in Chihuahua, second in Wuxi, third in La Coruña and third in Saransk), and only the swine flu epidemic prevented him from taking part in more competitions. Moreover, in all four of his 2009 races, he was given only one warning.
“In all my races this year, I finished in the top three and the judges have noticed my technique is good. Only in China I was given a yellow card, in Russia I finished with a clean board. The judges know that Mexicans have a good school and a good technique, and they appreciate us more,” commented Sánchez proudly.
Berlin 2009 was the first step to start the Olympic cycle that will finish in London 2012, Games where Eder hopes to shine with new goals.
“I know London 2012 will be my Olympics. Beijing 2008 was an important part of my career, but I know I learned a lot there, and London will be the Games where I’ll put all I’ve learnt into practice”, said Eder.
However, before London 2012, the next step for Sánchez will be World Race Walking Cup in Chihuahua 2010. Eder has already won three medals at past editions of this event: individual silver as a junior at 10km, and gold with the junior team, both in 2004, as well as bronze in Cheboksary 2008 at 20km.
After seventeen years, the World Race Walking Cup comes for the second time to Mexico (the first was Monterrey 1993). And Eder, with the rest of the team, wants to make history in his own country.
3,000m walk 11:14.01 (2009)
5000m Walk: 18:40.11 (2009)
10,000m Walk: 40:46.29 (2004)
10km Walk: 38:31.00 (2009)
20km Walk: 1:18:34 (2008)
20km Walk: 2005: 1:19:02 (AJR); 2006: 1:23:24; 2007: 1:20:08; 2008: 1:18:34; 2009: 1:19:22; 2010: 1:21:45
10km Walk: 2004: 40:33; 2005: 39:32, 2009: 38:31.00, 2010: 39.44
10,000m Walk: 2002: 42:17.02; 2003: 42:34.87; 2004: 40:46.29; 2005: 42:40.17
2004 2nd World Race Walking Cup (Naumburg) 41:01 (10km)
2004 1st Central Am. & Caribbean Junior Ch (Coatzacoalcos) 43:21.99A (10,000m)
2004 4th World Junior Championships (Grosseto) 41:01.64 (10,000m)
2005 8th World Championships (Helsinki) 1:20:45 (20km)
2006 2nd Central American & Caribbean Games (Cartagena) 1:26:23 (20km)
2007 4th World Championships (Osaka) 1:23:36 (20km)
2008 3rd World Race Walking Cup (Cheboksary) 1:18:34 (20km)
2009 3rd World Championships (Berlin) 1:19.22 (20km)
Prepared by Katya Lopez and Victor Pochat for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2008-2010.