Giving up on a sporting dream

If things had worked out, Lorenza Munoz — born in Mexico but raised in the US — might have become an Olympian. Dual loyalties got in the way:

By the time I was 12, I landed a spot on a junior US “travel team” set to compete abroad. But as I raced to tell my parents the good news, my coach stopped me. There was a problem. I was not a U.S. citizen, so I couldn’t compete for the United States… So I rebelled. If I couldn’t swim for the US, I would swim for Mexico…

My experience as a Mexican swimmer started badly and ended worse. Some of my new team-mates were friendly enough, but there was always the implication that I didn’t belong. Did I speak Spanish fluently enough; could I sing the national anthem word for word? And why had I chosen to leave the patria in the first place? And every swim meet in Mexico was laden with disaster, contrary to the orderliness I had grown up with in the United States. At one meet, I discovered, a referee had been paid to disqualify me; at another, the pool was the color of mud, and we had to train in shark-infested ocean waters until it was cleaned. When I broke a national record, the swimming administrators wouldn’t acknowledge it.

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