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Estrada continues to work toward Olympic dream

INDIANAPOLIS -- Olympian Diego Estrada captured his second USATF title at the Houston Half Marathon Championships on Jan. 18, and he’s looking forward to finally competing internationally as an American citizen.
“2014 was a tough year for me,” said Estrada. “I was waiting for a breakout race, and it never came. I told myself at [the] Half Marathon Champs I was going to treat it like it was still 2014. The course was great; the weather was perfect. I guess all I had to do was rise to the occasion.”
After leading most of the race and crossing the finish line with a winning time of 1:00:51, Estrada (Salinas, California) is now third on the all-time U.S. half marathon list.
To celebrate the win, the two-time USATF champion proudly displayed the American flag to show his unfaltering patriotism and his dedication to the dream of becoming a U.S. Olympian.
“It’s an emotional moment,” he said. “It brings me back to when I became a citizen and was holding a flag. I’ve been doing the Pledge of Allegiance since kindergarten.”
Estrada’s family emigrated from Mexico when he was only 13 months old. He spent much of his childhood establishing U.S. residency, and he became an American citizen in November of 2011. His dream was always to compete with Team USA at the Olympic Games.
In 2012, Estrada, then a junior at Northern Arizona University, was ruled ineligible for the U.S. Olympic Trials - Track & Field due to his new citizenship. As a result, he competed for Mexico at the London Games and fulfilled a part of his Olympic dream, finishing in 28:36.19 in the 10,000 meters.
“I [grew] up in this country,” said Estrada, “so I have always considered myself a Mexican-American. I was misinformed in 2012, and ran the A-standard in Mexico. I realized I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to line up at the [U.S.] trials in Eugene. I didn’t wait to make the decision when my home country [of Mexico] approached me; it was a no-brainer. I was in college and didn’t know I would be a professional athlete.”
After his Olympic debut in London, Estrada finished his senior year as one of the best distance athletes in NAU history.
“For me, my whole purpose was to get a degree, and it just so happened that I was in Flagstaff, Arizona,” he said. “We had two to three Kenyan athletes running world-class times, so competing against them, in a way, helped lead me to getting a contract.”
Now Estrada is a two-time national champion after winning his first title at the 2014 USATF 5 km Championships in Providence, Rhode Island, and he once again looks to satisfy his goal of representing the U.S. at the Olympic Games.
“My dream,” he said, “is to represent my country. We saw at the last Olympics that Americans are on the podium. I am no longer chasing a degree or chasing the money. It’s about satisfaction as an athlete.”
Estrada was cleared to compete for the U.S. last year, and he hopes to be wearing red, white, and blue at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing.
“My whole goal for this year is getting ready for Worlds. [I’m] not saying I’m going out to make the World team, but [I’m] going to give it my best to try to make it.”

Amber Brooks
Internet Publishing Coordinator

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