Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic is the favorite to win Olympic gold in the men's 400-meter hurdles.
For an athlete who had hoped to be a baseball player, Felix Sanchez is doing quite well. He had to turn to athletics after breaking his hand in an off-season wrestling match. The injury did not heal sufficiently to enable him to properly grip a baseball bat, but it has all worked out.
Sanchez, 26, is a two-time world champion in the 400-meter hurdles and he is riding a 40-race winning streak that dates back to July 2, 2001.
Sanchez's parents are from the Dominican Republic, but he was born in New York, grew up in California and graduated from the University of Southern California. He has represented the Dominican Republic since 1999.
"When I compete, obviously I have my family and my country in my mind, but also the future of the Dominicans and the future of Latin America to kind of push them into, to motivate them to succeed us for the future of Latin America and Mexico and the Dominican Republic as well," he says.
The one-meter-80 tall Sanchez first drew attention when he won his first 400-meter hurdles world title in 2001 in Edmonton, Canada. That was the Dominican Republic's first medal at a major international track and field meet. Sanchez successfully defended that title in Paris last year.
Only the legendary Edwin Moses of the United States was able to achieve that feat in the grueling event. Moses, in fact, had an amazing winning streak of 122 races between 1977 and 1987.
So with his winning streak now at 40, is Sanchez aiming for the mark held by Moses?
"It's not really my goal because especially because now the last few years there are at least 10 competitors that can run under 48:00," he explains. "Edwin Moses was running at least the first seven years of his career there were only three and he was one of them. So I think it'd be a lot more difficult and really unrealistic to try to set a goal for 120-some races consecutive."
Felix Sanchez does not want his winning streak stopped here at the Olympics, but he is realistic.
"Every race I'm sure they [my opponents] are waiting for the chance that I make a mistake, or that they run a great race and they beat me," he adds. "And one day that's going to happen, but hopefully after that happens I'll respond and still be victorious as the great ones have."
With two world championships in the 400-meter hurdles, a Pan American Games title and a sweep of the Golden League series of international meets in 2002, Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic has one big goal left.
"My thing has always been to get a medal at every major championship, and there's one more championship for me to get a medal at and that's here in Athens," he says. "After that my career will be complete, and everything else will be just really for time and just for my mark in history."
Felix Sanchez was highly disappointed when he failed to reach the 400-meter hurdles final and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He's determined not only to make the final at these Olympics, but to win it.