Tatiana Calderon: A Mexican distance queen

Written by by Staff Writer, CNN On August 9, 1999, Paula Radcliffe set a world record for the women’s marathon, clocking 2 hours, 18 minutes and 5 seconds at the Sydney Olympics. Eleven years…

Tatiana Calderon: A Mexican distance queen

Written by by Staff Writer, CNN

On August 9, 1999, Paula Radcliffe set a world record for the women’s marathon, clocking 2 hours, 18 minutes and 5 seconds at the Sydney Olympics.

Eleven years later, Tatiana Calderon became the first woman to win an Olympics marathon title, clocking 2 hours, 18 minutes and 49 seconds at the 2000 games in Sydney, a time that held the current mark until Radcliffe broke it in London in 2009. Calderon’s second gold medal ensured the feat took place at the games in Australia.

But Calderon’s dominance was relatively short-lived. Shortly after a punishing training session in 2003, when she pushed through pain to win a bronze medal, her son died in the car accident that killed her fellow Team Mexico athletes.

The air crash killed Erick Gutiérrez and Armando Uribe in Mexico, while Carlos Garcia Cangat and Rubén “Bolsa” Uriarte perished in Colombia. All the athletes were well-known in their respective countries — 11 of the 17 athletes were runners — but they all had one thing in common: They were a woman, either in the world governing bodies or organization that organized the international events.

Fast forward 13 years, and Calderon remains one of the few top-level runners who still compete for the Mexico’s national team, but she is no longer a national hero. At 35, she has lost nearly 50 pounds, given up athletics to raise two children and recently lost her job as a police officer, following two aggravated DUI arrests in the past 18 months.

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“In many ways I feel like a single woman — a single mother,” says Calderon, who is also the assistant director for all training and competitions at the national institute for sport and physical education, ISAF. “But I am a mother of two small children. So I am happy. I am not sad.”

Calderon’s husband, Adrian Mata, is also a running coach. Their eight-year-old son Arturo and daughter Natalie, who is 9 months old, live in Nogales, Arizona, an hour from Phoenix, where Calderon works at the national institute.

“I try to do as much as I can with the children,” she says. “I look after them more than they do.”

Despite her busy schedule, Calderon also manages to find time to mentor some of Mexico’s talented middle and long distance runners. And, although she says she doesn’t have the energy to take part in the sheath, Calderon says she will be planning a run once the Games are over.

“If it was easy, I wouldn’t be doing it,” she says. “The Olympics is my favourite event. That’s why I really want to do it. I would really like to run the marathon. There isn’t that big of a lead time to do it. I think I have everything I need.”

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