The moment Daniela Torres achieved the Olympic standard for the Tokyo 2020 marathon she broke down in tears.
She hadn’t only fulfilled a dream in her first-ever marathon, she was also able to dedicate the win to the memory of her mother.
Nowadays, Torres always wears an angel-shaped brooch that she attaches to her bib. It was a brooch that belonged to her mother. So when she stopped the clock at 2:28:55 in an April marathon in Siena, Italy, the angel was there, giving her the wings she needed to take flight.
“When I crossed the line I had mixed feelings, but one was being moved by what had happened to my mother. She died last September and the last time I spoke to her she told me, 'I want you to go to the Olympics. I know you can,'” Torres remembered in an exclusive interview with Tokyo 2020.
“The truth is, my mother didn’t know my level [of performance], but mums always believe in us, they want the best for us. In Siena, the first thing that came to my mind was that my mother was right, that she blindly believed in me. It was very poignant and I cried, because I remembered her and knew that she would always be by my side.”
Making the standard in her first marathon
Last year, Torres took part in the World Half Marathon Championships, just three weeks after her mother had passed away. Although she hadn’t ever run a 42 km race, her mother had already dreamed that she would become Olympic champion.
“I wasn’t even running good times. When I set a good one at the World Half Marathon Championships, I thought I may have a chance. And now that it has happened [running the Olympic standard] I know my mother was completely right,” she recalled.
Her good half marathon result allowed her to dream bigger: “At that moment we went all-in on the marathon.”
However, with double the distance to run, everything changed. “When I was running [in Sienna], I had no experience over that distance. But in the end, everything went well and that gives me hope. In my next marathon, with the experience I have already gained and more time to prepare, I can achieve better results,” she said.
“Achieving the Olympic standard was a satisfactory, joyful moment and sharing that moment with my coach made it even more special. It was a brief dream, so I didn’t think it would be possible so soon. Everything has happened so fast but I’m happy to have this opportunity now,” she explained.
Torres’ next marathon will be in Tokyo, if her federation and National Olympic Committee select her as one of three athletes who will represent Mexico in the Olympic marathon on 7 of August 2021 in Sapporo Odori Park.
“The conditions will be very different to those we are used to but if I can make it into the top 15, or even get closer to the top positions, it would be incredible.”
I pictured myself at the Olympics, but as a journalist
Taking on a different role at the Olympics
While her athletic dreams began to take shape relatively recently, Torres has been dreaming of the Olympics for a very long time – but in a different capacity. Until 2019, Torres was working in the field of communications at the Sports Institute of Queretaro, her hometown.
“Sport has always been attractive to me and I used to picture myself at the Olympics working as a journalist. I would never have thought I’d have the chance to take part in the Games as an athlete,” the Mexican distance runner explained.
With her dreams of being a journalist put to one side, Torres began to dream of being an athlete.
“Up until July 2019, I was working in communications, but I quit my job – and everything else – to chase this new dream of becoming a professional athlete,” she recalled.
The strength my mother had and how she clung to life was admirable.
Now she is my role model because there is no competition too hard or obstacle too big that I can’t overcome it.
In the end, all of her efforts paid off but at the time she had no idea the chance she was taking would lead her to where she is today.
“In fact,” she said, “when I took the decision I thought it was a bad idea. It was my boyfriend, Gustavo Pimentel, who encouraged me. He told me constantly, ‘You are really good at running, you are very talented, you have a lot of potential.’ He was the first one to join the club where we train, Gondi MX. He joined four months before me and got me thinking about competing, so I thought it was worth a try.”
Torres needed a few months to plan things, save the money to go to Mexico City and leave her life, as she knew it, behind. But in the end, everything was worth it.
“I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” she said.
Because, after all, Torres was trying to find happiness.
“My mother is my biggest inspiration, even if she is no longer here. Mum battled cancer for eight years. During that period she went through many ups and downs, but the strength she had and how she clung to life was admirable. Now she is my role model, because there is no competition too hard or obstacle too big that I can’t overcome it. My mother suffered so much and went through so many difficult situations that nothing that happens to me can compare to it. She is my biggest example of strength.”