Felix Sanchez - Domincan Republic, 400 hurdles - San Diego Mesa College
Félix Sánchez is an American track and field athlete who specializes in the 400 meter hurdles event, where he is the reigning Olympic champion after winning gold Aug. 6 with a time of 47.63 - the same time he had in 2004 to win gold in Athens, Greece. He was also world champion in 2001 and 2003. He is nicknamed "Super Felix," "the Invincible," "Superman," and "the Dictator."
Sánchez was born in New York City to Dominican parents and was raised in San Diego, Calif. He attended University City High School and San Diego Mesa College.
"Mesa gave me the [academic and athletic] foundation I needed," Sanchez said after winning his first gold medal. "Mesa grounded me."
He later became a psychology major at the University of Southern California in 1998. He opted to represent the Dominican Republic internationally, and made his debut for that nation in 1999. He credits his grandmother, Lillian Morcelo, for giving him a strong sense of his Dominican roots. She died in 2008 at age 66 on the day of the opening rounds of the 400 hurdles in Beijing and Sanchez, who said he was "crushed" by her death could only finish fifth in his heat and did not qualify for the finals.
Competing for University of Southern California's USC Trojans, he was a Pac-10 champion (400 m hurdles) and All-American relay champion (1,600 m) in 1999. Between 2001 and 2004 he won 43 races in a row at 400 m hurdles, including the 2001 and 2003 World Championships. He won a share of the Golden League million dollar-jackpot in 2002 after winning all 7 races.
At the 2003 Pan American Games, Sánchez won the Dominican Republic's first gold medal at the competition and also broke the Pan American Games record in the 400 m hurdles. He was named Track and Field News Track & Field Athlete of the Year in 2003. Subsequently, he won the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the Dominican Republic in Athens.
During his 43-race winning streak, from 2001 to 2004, Sánchez was known for wearing a wristband while competing. The red flashing wristband, a souvenir from the 2000 Olympics, served as a motivation for him after failing to advance to the final in Sydney. After winning the Olympic gold medal in Athens 2004, Sánchez gave the wristband to the IAAF for auction and the profits were donated to charity. In his first race after the Olympics – and his first race without the wristband – at the Van Damme Memorial meet in Brussels, Sánchez injured his leg and had to abandon the race halfway through.
In 2012, Sanchez entered the London Olympics as a rank outsider after indifferent form. However, he posted the fastest qualifying time, and followed it by winning the final with a time of 47.63 seconds, the same as his winning time in Athens in 2004. Sanchez became the oldest man to win the Olympic 400m hurdles title, and the second consecutive 400m hurdles champion to have won their second title eight years after their first (Angelo Taylor having won in 2000 and 2008).
Read about more past and present Olympians...