Most of you people come from countries of success. If you’re from the USA then is not about winning a gold medal but how much we got last Olympics. I come from Chile and until the year 1998 our best achievement was a bronze medal and a third place in the football World Cup we host in 1962. We were no one, until tennis.
First we had one of the most talented Tennis players that ever existed: Marcelo ‘Chino’ Ríos. He was an ass in and out of the field, but his backhand shot was absolutely magical and he has some of the most unbelievable shots I have seen. In 1998 he defeated Andre Agassi (on his prime) to win Key Biscayne and get the first ever Latin American number one ranking on the Open Era. And he did that effortless. This was the best achievement Chile had at the time, we flood the streets and celebrate as it was a victory of our own. We did nothing and he gave us joy.
But this is not what I’m here to tell you. I’m here because today we celebrate 13 years since we got our first Gold Medal at the Olympics. It was in Athens 2004 in front of maybe 800 people in the Men’s Double Finals. The task was not easy, but we had the closest thing to Hercules and Aquiles you can imagine. We had them:
Nicolás Massú and Fernando González
I was 9 at the time. My dad introduced me to tennis from a very young age and even tho he was far away I woke up because I knew this was something important. Even my mother – who is not a very enthusiastic tennis fan – was awake by my side in frount of our 14′ square TV all the way south to Punta Arenas. Near the Antarctica.
I can write books about the journey but you can check it out on the web. The most relevant aspects of this tournament was that they are not Double’s specialist and they were still competing for Bronze (Gonzalez) and Gold (Massu) in the Men’s Singles bracket. Gonzalez had already won Bronze by defeating USA’s Taylor Dent in a 16-14 third set and Massu was scheduled the next day to play against Mardy Fish for the gold medal.
Before the final they defeated the favorites Bryan brother’s (arguably the best Double’s couple ever to play the game) on their prime and they had some amazing wins in the Single bracket like Massu’s win against Carlos Moya and Gonzalez defeating 2nd seeded Andy Roddick. They were hungry. The final was against the German couple composed by Nicolas Kieffer and Rainer Schüttler.
In the final they were down two sets to one and the fourth got to a tie-break. Germany got to a 6-2 lead with four Gold Medal Points, it was over and everyone knew it except for Massu and Gonzalez. It is never over for them. They came back from the deficit and forced a fifht set, this was Athens and the myth was forging itself. Who needs Homer when he have these two?
They got to a 4-4 score and with an amazing Massu’s forehand, Chile broke Germany and approached to it’s first Gold Medal. 108 years of modern Olympics and no Gold Medals for this country. Almost 200 years of history and no success ever, only shades of what Rios did were hanging on Gonzalez service at last. They did it after a tense final game, they won. Gold Medal for Chile. The national anthem was played for the first time ever on greek soil.
I was with my mom at the time and we were both crying. A nine year old who knows nothing about life and a mother who only knows about failure. I still cry to this day whenever I tell the legend these two forged together. The next day Massu proved to be a golden hero again and defeated Fish to earn a double gold medal achievement that no one EVER will get again. Not Federer, not Nadal, no one. Ever.
I still cry to this day for what they’ve done. Thanks Feña. Thanks Nico.
They are superheroe’s and for cape they carry the chilean flag with pride.