Bumps in the Road to Worlds
Mario Valencia, 2010 World Champion has overcome a number of bumps in the road to get to this year's world championships in Yeosu, South Korea. Two months ago he was diagnosed with a condition in his heart. Basically, he had a pinhole in the heart that was leaking out a minute amount of blood. The condition required corrective surgery. Some questioned whether he would ever skate again. The procedure was successful but the doctors were hesitant to allow him to travel to Outdoor Nationals in Colorado Springs.
If he didn't compete at the World Team Trials could he still go to worlds? Yes, if his fellow junior men skaters agreed to it in a vote. Mario would take a seventh spot under a rule created for a similar situation incurred by Teresa Cliff. She was a former world champion who became ill and was unable to go to the World Team Trials at Outdoor Nationals. The skaters voted for her to be able to compete anyway and they weren't disappointed. Likewise, the 2011 Junior men did vote for Mario to go. The road to 2011 Worlds was cleared. We look forward to a great performance this year.
I caught up with Mario to find out what he was thinking about this year's worlds.
BL: With all you've been through this year, how does it feel to be here at Worlds?
M: I wanted to start out by saying thank you to all the Junior men for this opportunity. The vote was 34 to 2 so that was a real vote of confidence in me; it made me really happy. I trained really hard at home getting ready to come to Korea.
BL: What are your impressions of Korea?
M: It is a very nice country. It seems very clean and organized. We are treated really well here. Even the food is ok with me. I can eat anything.
BL: What is your favorite race?
M: It is half and half with me between the elimination race and the 1000m.
BL: What advice would you give to skating hopefuls?
M: Dedicate 100%
BL: What is your philosophy of training?
M: Pain can sometimes by only in your head. You've got to push through.
[Mario took 4th in the Junior Men1000m final on Wednesday night.]