21 SEP 2002 General News Madrid

Ten out of Ten for Guevara!

Ana Guevara wins the World Cup (Getty Images)Ana Guevara wins the World Cup (Getty Images) © Copyright

Ana Guevara finally left the track in the Stadium Comunidad de Madrid, after one of the longest post-race interviews in history. But who could blame Mexican TV, they've got a real star on their hands?

In this season of fashion shows around the world - London, New York, soon to be Paris and Milan - Guevara was wearing a T-shirt to die for - the famous iconic head of 'Che' with her face super-imposed. She had been presented with it by trackside Mexican fans following her tenth straight victory out of ten on her own international circuit this year, culminating with this World Cup victory in Madrid.

And like 'Che', this Guevara has created her own little revolution, with no small help from her Cuban coach, Raoul Bareda. She emerged onto the international scene when she took bronze in the 400 metres in Edmonton last year. But she has proved unstoppable this season, breaking her national record three times (making seven in all), with a best of 49.16sec, and regularly going under 50 seconds. She has also provided plenty of peripheral entertainment, from the all-in-one speed-suit (including hood) she wore in the cold, rainy conditions of Oslo and Paris in the first two Golden League meetings, to the scantier garb and shades she has adopted for the warmer climes.

She has certainly made an impact back at home. Born on the Mexico-US border at Nogales, "cowboy country," as she characterises it, she is not only the first world-class sprinter from her country, she is pretty much the first Mexican woman athlete of any repute.

"It was a surprise to my dad, when I told him I wanted to be a runner," she said recently.

That was in 1996, when her school basketball coach told her she could be good at the game, but no more than that, but he reckoned she would make a great sprinter. The running spikes that dad bought across the border have now been cast in bronze by the local copper miners, and Mexican television, for the first time in its history is broadcasting track and field athletics live from Europe.

They began at the Brussels Golden League, continued in Berlin, and at the Grand Prix Final in Paris, and finally from the World Cup. It will ensure huge crowds when she arrives back in Mexico City on Sunday evening, prior to going back home to an even warmer welcome in Sonoro Province.

It's all a far cry from the false start she had to her international career. She was sent to Athens '97 as an 800 metres runner - she also holds the national record at 2min 01.12sec. But, putting it kindly, someone had made an error in her entry form, listing her as having run 2.02.96, just under the 2.03.00 'B' qualifying mark. In fact her best was 2.03.08. She was rumbled, and, although allowed to stay in Athens, was not permitted to run. It was, she says, "very embarrassing, but the IAAF realised it was not my fault, and they let me stay, it was still a great experience for me". Her career really took off when she won the Pan-Am Games title in 1999. And it has been a gradual ascension from there.

She intends to spend a week back home, then begin her build-up for next year, and the World Championships in Paris, where they have a penchant for revolutionaries. But she is unlikely to be back in Europe before the summer, probably choosing to go back to Australia, where she has wintered before. And Australia is, of course, the home of Olympic champion, Cathy Freeman, a revolutionary in her own right.

"I'm not interested in running indoors in Europe, I don't like the indoors, but I would like to go back to Australia. It would be good if Cathy came back (to competition), because it would make the event like it was when there was Perec and Freeman. I want her to come back". And that's a revolution of the track we'd all pay to see.

Pat Butcher for the IAAF