Among the many Dominicans watching wide-eyed on television as Felix Sanchez stormed to victory in the men’s 400m hurdles final at Athens 2004 was a 10-year-old boy from Bayaguana by the name of Luguelin Santos.
“I asked myself there and then how hard it would be for me to get there, where he was,” says Santos, recalling the childhood dream he began nurturing that very day.
He was already a keen athlete by that time, but Sanchez’s exploits inspired him to train even harder, and when he turned 14 he showed his immense potential by running the 400m in 53 seconds. In 2009, he embarked on his international junior career, and went on to run 46.19 the following year, breaking the national record in his age group and posting the fastest time in the world that year among his peers.
Selected to represent his country at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, Santos took 400m gold in a time of 47.11, his first major international title. He followed up two days later by forming part of the Americas team that won the medley relay.
Pride and inspiration
Santos continued his rise by running 44.71 in the final at the 2011 Pan American Games to set a new world junior record. Aged 18, he then took the world junior title in Barcelona, less than a month before London 2012, where he finished second to world champion Kirani James of Grenada in a time of 44.46.
That 400m final at London’s Olympic Stadium was immediately preceded by the medal ceremony for the men’s 400m hurdles, which saw the great Sanchez climb on to the top of the podium for his second Olympic title. Recalling that special moment for Dominican athletics, Santos said: “It was a great honour and an enormous motivation for me to hear the national anthem right before my race.”
“I am very pleased with all the effort I’ve put in. I’ve really worked for it,” he said after his London 2012 silver, contemplating his status as one of the world’s top athletes. “I can’t even put it into words. I felt so emotional when I crossed the finish line and I felt that all my hard work had paid off. It’s taken years and years of sweat and toil to get here and compete against the best.”
In following his idol’s footsteps, and making the journey from Singapore to London, Santos has himself set an inspirational example for the next generation of Dominican athletes.