Llorar es de humanos y de periodistas también

La historia nunca contada de una entrevista inolvidable.

Yo conocí a Félix Sánchez en el año 2007 durante los Juegos Panamericanos de Río. En aquel momento el dominicano estaba de vuelta a las pistas tras una ausencia de casi dos años. Pese a esto, los ojos del mundo estaban puestos en el hombre que le dio el primer oro olímpico en la historia de su país; así como una infinidad de logros continentales que incluyen el oro de los Juegos Panamericanos de Santo Domingo en 2003, en un estadio donde todavía se escucha que corean su nombre.

A Sánchez no le fue bien en la ciudad carioca. Corría en el primer lugar cuando tropezó con la última valla, lo que hizo que terminara en el cuarto puesto. Un día después de esa competencia lo vi en la villa panamericana, donde muy amablemente accedió a una entrevista. Hablaba de sus ganas de continuar en competencia pese a los obstáculos. No se equivocó, poco después quedaba en el segundo lugar del mundial de Osaka en Japón.

Nos volvimos a encontrar en otros Panamericanos, esta vez los de Guadalajara 2011, donde ocupó el tercer lugar de la compleja prueba de los 400 con vallas. Precisamente ahí parecía el final de una carrera muy exitosa, sin embargo aún quedaba un poco más. Y vaya que «poco», un año después de esos Panamericanos en México. «Supersanchez» emergió desde lo más profundo de la tierra y el poder humano, para convertirse en doble campeón olímpico en los Juegos de Londres 2012. 

En ese escenario, Félix también es recordado por llorar en el tartán del estadio olímpico con la foto de su abuela; quien lo acompañó debajo del cartel que llevaba su apellido en la competencia, así como en sus zapatos. Ese instante quedó en la posteridad como uno de los momentos más icónicos en la historia del evento deportivo más importante del mundo. Es imposible no emocionarse viendo una y otra vez ese video del 6 de agosto de 2012. 

Nos vimos nuevamente en el 2015. Ya casi en el retiro, Félix quiso despedirse de las pistas ganando el oro panamericano. Sin embargo, no se pudo. Quedó fuera de la final y con ese presagio la posibilidad de no verlo nunca más en una pista. Pero su retiro no lo fue del todo, un año más tarde en los Juegos Olímpicos de  Río 2016 me volví a encontrar con el dominicano, esta vez en función de comentarista de la cadena ESPN. 

Félix Sánchez, Oro Olímpico, Juegos Olímpicos, Juan José Sayago, Entrevista, Periodista, Atleta Olímpico
Con Sánchez en 2015 y 2007 / Archivo Sayago

Hasta entonces, los Juegos Olímpicos de 2016 representaron mi último evento del ciclo olímpico después de engrosar la lista de inmigrantes venezolanos. Pensé quizás, como Félix, en que no volvería nunca más a pisar una villa olímpica o panamericana. Sin embargo, por cosas que sólo le puedo atribuir a Dios, tuve la oportunidad de trabajar en Lima 2019, con la organización Panamsports en lo que, sin duda, ha sido la experiencia más importante de toda mi carrera profesional (tema para otra columna). 

¿Adivinen con quien me encontré en la capital de Perú? Claramente que con Félix Sánchez.

Yo llegaba de hacer un trabajo en la pista de atletismo y me disponía a comer en la terraza del estadio de la Videna y ahí estaba él. Esta vez sin púas para correr, pero con el uniforme rojo y blanco de la República Dominicana, comiendo como si se tratara de un mortal común y corriente, que, por supuesto, para mi no lo era.

Félix me invitó a sentarme en la misma mesa e incluso a compartir una copa de vino. Yo no lo podía creer, estaba con un atleta al que he admirado siempre, compartiendo como dos colegas de toda la vida. Les juro que pensaba cada palabra para no molestarlo, no incomodarle ni hacer aseveraciones tontas. Sin embargo, no pude, hubo una parte de mí que me obligó, entre otras cosas, a exclamar: «No sé cómo voy a explicarle a mis nietos que comí con Félix Sánchez», a lo que Sánchez sonrió, mientras decía: «Salud por eso».

Se podía caer el mundo en ese momento, pero para mí no había algo más importante que escuchar los relatos del héroe dominicano. Asimismo, le solicité que hiciéramos una entrevista para Panamsports, sobre su apreciación del atletismo en Lima 2019. Después de más de hora y media se levantó de la mesa y dijo, «vamos a conversar». Puse a grabar en mi cámara mientras fluía una conversación interesante e informal en la cual estaba de background nada menos que el propio estadio olímpico de Videna, ¿casualidad o no?

Esa tarde estaban preparando las vallas, las mismas que él sorteó de manera extraordinaria durante toda su carrera como atleta activo. Durante más de 20 minutos obtuve una valiosa información que al día siguiente acaparó buena parte de los diarios y portales web peruanos, pero más allá de lo noticioso se produjo una lección de vida.

Al final de la entrevista Félix soltó una frase que se quedó grabada en mi mente por siempre: «La vida es como las vallas, hay que saltarlas todas, no son nueve, ni 9.5, son 10». Sólo me dio tiempo de apagar el teléfono antes que las lágrimas se adueñaran de mi cara. Esa frase fue tan contundente para mí, que me hizo llorar con una contundencia como la de quien pierde a un familiar.

Preocupado, Félix se me acerca a preguntar qué pasaba. No entendía por qué estaba llorando de esa manera si todo había salido bien. En ese momento le confesé que estaba transitando por una situación muy extraña de mi vida, que sólo el inmigrante puede entender. Le expliqué que meses antes (como él, en 2007), me había caído muchas veces saltando vallas de la vida. 

Le conté que en mi mente no cabía la posibilidad de estar frente a alguien tan importante. Apenas semanas atrás el oficio que estaba ejerciendo en nada se parecía al amor que me produce ir a cubrir eventos del ciclo olímpico. Le dije que la vida o las vallas eran tan buenas que me había permitido verlas de cerca nada menos que con un ícono de este deporte, al que tantas veces me encontré en diferentes momentos de su vida. Le agradecí por su ejemplo, por no rendirse, por hacer esa parábola de las vallas y la vida que me había marcado tanto.

Después fue incómodo pensar el por qué me había quebrado de esa manera y frente a un personaje de ese talante. Sin embargo, Félix lo entendió e incluso se puso de mi lado al asegurarme que «todo vale la pena si hacemos un esfuerzo más, una valla más». 

Debo confesar que rompí con todos los códigos de ética que tiene un periodista, pero también debo agradecer que dentro de mi profesión, por un instante, fui más humano que nunca. 

El viaje olímpico de Félix Sánchez.

Lee también: El 1 de agosto de 2012 yo también gané

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