LONDON (Reuters) - Erick Barrondo walked into Guatemala’s history books on Saturday as its first Olympic medal winner and said he hoped the magic of the moment would help his countrymen back home pick up trainers in future instead of guns.
“It’s well known that Guatemala has problems with guns and knives,” Barrondo said after finishing second in the men’s 20km race walk, which took in the sights of Buckingham Palace.
“I hope that this medal inspires the kids at home to put down guns and knives and pick up a pair of trainers instead. If they do that, I will be the happiest guy in the world.”
The 21-year-old, whose parents were both middle distance runners, even broke away from journalists’ questions to take a call from Guatemala’s president, Otto Perez Molina.
“The president congratulated me on the first Olympic medal for the country. He told me that everyone had come out on the streets to celebrate the triumph,” said Barrondo, who finished 11 seconds behind China’s Chen Ding.
“It was a glorious day for me, but the glory is most of all for my country,” he added.
In a day of firsts in London the race was won by Chen, who together with his third placed compatriot Wang Zhen were the first Chinese men to win an Olympic medal in a race walking event.
Barrondo, who finished 10th in last year’s 20km race walk final at the world championships in Daegu, worked hard to stay in contention among a Chinese and Russian dominated leading pack before breaking away to split China’s duo on the final stretch.
Reporting by Neil Maidment; editing by Michael Holden