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Published on January 3rd, 2015 | by mpower

#8 Top Post of 2014: Velasquez Popular on the Mountain as Mexico’s Lone Athlete

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By: Dr. Joshua R. Pate, Photos: Missy Gresen

SOCHI – Last Friday night, as athletes lined up with their respective nations underneath Bolshoy Ice Dome in preparation for the athlete parade into Fisht Olympic Stadium for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games opening ceremony, an echoing voice bellowed down the long hallway.

“Arly!” the voice screamed in this deep, megaphone-like tone with the R sound rolling off the tongue. “Aarrrly!”

Two members of the Mexico delegate couldn’t find their athlete, Arly Velasquez.

That’s right, athlete. Singular. One. Uno.

Velasquez is Mexico’s only athlete competing in these Paralympic Winter Games. Velasquez is an alpine skier.

That’s right, alpine skier. From Mexico.

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Photo: Missy Gresen

As the Mexico delegation made its way to its assigned location, Velasquez got separated from the other two men with him because someone from nearly every single National Paralympic Committee stopped him for a photo. The Mexico delegation wore red jackets with large sombreros on their heads. They were smiling and singing. If you were underneath Bolshoy as the parade took form, you wanted to be near Mexico.

Norway was nearby with its delegation, and an athlete went over for a photo with Velasquez. “Viva la Mexico,” the athlete told Velasquez. Then a man began working on Velasquez’s wheelchair as a green, white and red flag leaned against the wall. Velasquez was Mexico’s flagbearer by default.

“I’m pimping my ride,” he said with a giant smile as the worker rigged a device to carry the Mexican flag on his chair during the ceremony.

He’s used to this kind of attention by now.

“It’s a big responsibility because it’s on me,” said Velasquez, who trains in Park City, Utah with the National Ability Center. “I just love being here. I think most of Mexico is watching.”

Velasquez competed in men’s downhill on Saturday but failed to finish. He then competed in the men’s Super-G and finished 11th of the 12 who completed their run. His goal was to finish in the top 15, which he did with a time of 1:30.57. The time was significantly slower than his Super-G time of 1:16.76 at last year’s world championship.

Still, Velasquez isn’t bummed. He just took up the sport in 2009 and a year later was at the Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

He still has the men’s giant slalom remaining on his schedule, which will be held on Saturday.

The support from back home has kept him motivated during the time between his competitions.

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Selfie: Arly

“That adds really good energy,” Velasquez said. “Every single day I receive a lot of messages from Mexico and they are always sending really good vibes and are thinking of me. It’s always really good to hear it and very positive energy for me to try to get a better result.”

Dr. Joshua R. Pate is working as a volunteer flash quote reporter for Paralympic News Service during the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. All postings are his personal views.

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