Unlikely career of Alejandra Valencia

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Mexican archer Alejandra Valencia has become an archery queen at these Pan American Games with two gold medals -- one individual and one team medal -- breaking a Pan Am Games record with her teammates in the process.

The native of Sonora admitted that as a girl she practiced cycling along with her older sister, before her sibling was injured in an accident that opened the door to begin practicing archery -- upon an invitation from instructor Miguel Angel Flores.

"I told them they should instead come with me to archery; that there were no accidents there," Flores commented. "Of course, I did it because I was seeking people for my team."

The cycling accident, which was not serious, was witnessed by the aforementioned coach. As a consequence of the fall, Valencia's sister suffered a minor knee injury, while Flores intervened to help them. Minutes later, they both received an invitation from the instructor to switch sports.

From that point on, Valencia would not leave archery, although she recognized that it was not easy to adapt to a sport she had never practiced and in which she was not familiar. Thus, the process was slow; however, she adapted and has been able to launch a successful career.

"I had been told to go into cycling, track and field or basketball because of my height, but nothing attracted me," Valencia said. "One day Miguel invited me when I was riding a bike with my sister and I stayed.

"At the beginning I couldn't even hit the bale. I would say, 'When will I hit it? When will I hit it?' But I would see the older ones and I knew that I would hit the bale like them."

Barely 17 years old, Valencia remembers the moment when she fcompeted in the Pan Am Games finals. She points out that the key to her success was that she tried to remain cool at all times and remain concentrated so that the arrows hit the bull’s-eye.

“The truth is that I always strived to not be relaxed because it is bad to be too relaxed," she said. "I always tried not to be calm but to have everything under control. I strived toward that. That is precisely what makes me more excited about this gold medal. Because it wasn't just any competitor; it was one of the highest-ranked, at No. 2. Honestly it was very, very exciting to have won gold against her."

Meanwhile, Fernando Becerra, archery coach in Jalisco, Mexico, and member of the Guadalajara 2011 Pan American Games Organizing Committee, maintained that for those who follow this sport closely, Valencia's victory comes as no surprise, given her meteoric career. Another archer who experienced a meteoric rise is Juan Rene Serrano, who emerged from the individual events empty handed.

“The results are deceitful. We were, of course, awaiting a medal from Juan Rene since he was the flag bearer for Mexico, but his fate would be to share a bracket with the world champion, which is not easy at all," Becerra said. "Letting go of the possibility of reaching the final due to pressure from the public that wanted to see him crowned champion carried weight in the following battle for bronze. In the women's events, Valencia dedicated herself fully to meeting expectations. It is not surprising that she is the Pan American champion, and she solely dedicated herself to close the year out well."