Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexico's Sports Reflect Its Society

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexico's Sports Reflect Its Society

Article excerpt

One hundred and one, 22, 1. That was the final Olympic medal count for the NAFTA partners: the United States, Canada, and Mexico respectively.

Mexico earned a bronze in race walking. The lone Mexican medal in 1992 in Barcelona - a silver - was also in race walking. Now, as then, the Mexican legislature is calling for an official inquiry to lay blame for what the public believes was an awful performance.

When looked at with a knowledge of sports, they're wrong. When examined really deeply, however, they are more correct in their disdain of the system than they realize. Mexico's attitude toward sports says a great deal about its society.

On the surface, a country of 93 million (more than three times the population of Canada) should have had more success. There were high hopes for more medals not only in walking, but in the undisputed national sport of soccer and, of course, in the marathon - where current New York and London marathon winners are Mexicans.

No surprises here

Mexico, in spite of not winning more medals, did as well as expected. If the marathon had been a team event and scored as cross country meets are, the Mexicans would have won the gold. Their three runners were all in the top 15, two in the top 10. No other country had all three marathon participants (the maximum allowed per nation) in the top 30. Mexicans have always been excellent distance runners.

Mexico's soccer team played well. Rarely has Mexico been ranked among the best in the world, but it reached the final eight before losing in a hotly contested match to the gold medal winners, Nigeria. Since Mexico has never gone further than the quarter finals in any major international soccer competition, what more could have been expected?

The top Mexican race walker was disqualified from each race when he was up with the leaders. Gliding - or floating - were the technical (and questionable) calls. In diving and synchronized swimming, Mexico had competitors in the top 10. When the available pool of athletes and the conditions under which Mexicans train are considered, that's decent.

The Mexican public expects instant success without laying the foundation first. …

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