Mariana Pajon became the new heroine of Colombia after winning the women's BMX cycling competition at the London Games and capturing her country's second-ever Olympic gold medal.
Pajon took the gold Friday with a time of 37.706 seconds at the London Velopark cycling center, where the medal ceremony resounded with her country's national anthem.
The Colombian anthem was last heard at the Olympics 12 years ago, when Maria Isabel Urrutia won a weightlifting championship at the 2000 Sydney Games. And that was it until now.
When the 20-year-old athlete from Medellin, who kicked off her appearance at the London Games as flag-bearer for her country in the opening parade, put down the flagpole to pick up the gold, she showed that those who chose her as the symbol of the team were right. The pressure never daunted her.
"I put my heart into it. I fought for all Colombians. With a lot of energy. Believing in myself, that I could do it," she said proudly, the medal on her chest.
Pressure never gets the best of Pajon. The excess of responsibility, the boundless trust and enthusiasm that her people place on her shoulders are borne with ease.
The Medellin cyclist who grew up with her feet on the pedals was born to win. She was already competing before she was 5 years old, and four years later she won her first world success. That began a string of victories that accumulated 14 world championships, two national, nine Latin American and 10 Pan American championships.
Her current world-champion title in the Elite category now partners with an Olympic gold medal from her debut in the Games. Her precociousness and track record weren't enough to get her into the Beijing Games. She was 16 at the time.
Mariana Pajon is a BMX cyclist by vocation. Brought up in a family of athletes, she realizes that "everything has turned out as expected" in her life.
She was no stranger to success growing up. And her tender years were never a disadvantage. She learned to compete against much older, more experienced cyclists, which gave her the unconquerable expertise she has now at 20.
The gold medal in London has been the climax of a winning streak that began in 2011, went on through some important victories in Florida and finally took her to Friday's tour de force in the Olympic Games. EFE