From rollerblades to speed skates: Colombian athlete breaking down barriers

From in-line skating on the streets of Colombia to speed skating on a lake in the Swiss Alps, Diego Amaya Martinez has made a remarkable climb on to the world stage.

Picture by OIS / IOC

On Sunday, the 16-year-old, pictured above, became the first Colombian to compete in a speed skating event at any Youth Olympic Games, and nearly came away with a medal.

Amaya Martinez finished fourth in the men’s 500m event on the frozen lake of St. Moritz, missing out on a podium finish by a mere 0.38 seconds.

“I really wanted to get a medal today, but I now know what things I need to improve on to hopefully win next time,” Amaya said. “I still feel really awesome about being an Olympian now. It has been my goal for a long time.”

His Olympic dream had been in the making for years. Amaya Martinez was inspired watching the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games with his family. He decided to replace his rollerblades with ice skates and leave Colombia for the United States.

“I begged my mum to move together with me to Salt Lake City. It would offer me the opportunity to become a long-track speed skater,” Amaya Martinez said.

“She has always supported my dream and made it possible for me to pursue my true passion. And here we are.”

Amaya Martinez has already proved that he is not afraid to take on new challenges, whether that means moving to a foreign country or competing in scenic St. Moritz.

“It was the first time for me to race on a frozen lake, but I just really like to try out new things,’’ he said. “This has been the best experience of my life.”

Amaya Martinez not only dreams of qualifying for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, but also hopes to motivate other Colombian athletes to follow his lead.

“I want to inspire my fellow Colombians and show them that it is not impossible to compete at the Winter Games,’’ he said. “It was once my dream, but it has now come true.”