News Column

Exclusive Interview: Leo Manzano, Track and Field Olympian

Sept. 4, 2012


Leo Manzano
Leo Manzano

Leo Manzano, 27, is still on a high from taking home the silver for the men's 1,500-meter final on Aug. 7 at the 2012 London Olympics.

And he should be. It was the first time an American won a medal in that race since Jim Ryun won a silver in 1968. To make the win sweeter, Ryun reached out to Manzano to congratulate him. Ironically, Ryun won silver in 1968 in Mexico City, in Manzano's native country.

Manzano and his family moved to Texas when he was 4 years old. The first in his family to graduate from high school, he attended the University of Texas on a track scholarship and became a five-time NCAA champion and an 11-time NCAA All-American. He graduated with degrees in Spanish and Portuguese, and a minor in business.

Monzano's enthusiasm for his sport and culture is evident as he shares with HispanicBusiness his most recent Olympic experience. What was the highlight of the 2012 London Olympics for you?

Leo Manzano: Without a question, for me, the highlight of the 2012 London Olympics was winning the silver medal for the USA in the men's 1500 meters.

Related story: Exclusive Interview: Amy Rodriguez, Soccer Olympian How did it feel to claim the silver medal in the 1500 meter final at the 2012 Summer Olympics, especially since it was the first time an American had medaled in the race in 44 years?

Leo Manzano: It was an incredible feeling! It was the best feeling I've experienced. I came across the finish line and was immediately overwhelmed with many sensations, including pride, joy -- and I thought about how many sacrifices I had to make to be able to be at the Olympics and win a medal. It was also really special for me to get a nice congratulatory tweet from Jim Ryun, who won the silver for the U.S. in the 1500 meter in 1968. Describe the camaraderie and rivalries among U.S. Olympic athletes.

Leo Manzano: In track and field, we are very big competitors and rivals on the track, but we respect each other on and off the track. At the Olympic level, everyone works really hard to be there. In short: rivals on track, friends off track. How does it feel to represent for U.S. Hispanics?

Leo Manzano: It is truly an honor, as there are few of us out there! I hope that we can see more Hispanics on the track in the future. I really hope I inspired many people, especially our youth, to work hard and follow their dreams! Describe how your family and cultural background have influenced, hindered or helped your athletic career.

Leo Manzano: It has been an incredible journey with my family. Neither my family nor my cultural background have been a hindrance in any way to my achievements. In fact, both my family and my cultural background have really help make me the person I am today, and I am so grateful for that. I grew up in a low-income home, and many would think that would be a disadvantage. But I think of it as a blessing, as it has helped me work harder, work smarter, and at the end of the day, I appreciate everything even more because I know how hard I have worked to achieve it.

Related story: Exclusive Interview: Brenda Villa, Water Polo Olympian Do you get to go back to Mexico very often, and if you do, what kind of things do you do while there?

Leo Manzano: I travel back to Mexico with and without my family at least once or twice a year. Mexico is a beautiful country with its pristine beaches, arid weather and even great places to train. When I return, it is for both business and for pleasure. I travel to train in San Luis Potosi, where my team and I do intense altitude training. Also, once a year I visit my family in Guanajuato, and once in a blue moon I like to escape to the beach. What advice do you have for future Olympians who are currently training to be present at the next round of games?

Leo Manzano: As anything that is worthwhile, the journey to the Olympics is a phenomenal experience, but be prepared to work hard and to work smart. You definitely have to pay the price to be the best. What's next for you?

Leo Manzano: There are many things that I still must do on and off the track. Since I am still in Europe competing, I am looking forward to heading back to Texas to celebrate with family and friends. I plan on giving back to the community through my foundation, and I have recently teamed up with Texas Heart Institute to help educate people about the leading cause of death in the U.S. -- heart disease.

On the track, I will continue to train, compete to win and to make USA teams. I do plan to get back to the Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

For more information about Manzano, visit his athlete profile.

Also, stay tuned for more one-on-one interviews with other U.S. Hispanic Olympians, including Sarah Robles, Carmelo Anthony and Danell Leyva, among others.

And don't forget to enjoy this one about Diana Lopez, Taekwando superstar.

Source: (c) 2012. All rights reserved.

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