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A (late) jump to fame: how John Murillo became an icon of perseverance

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Colombia's John Murillo competes in the Men's Triple Jump Qualifying Round as part of the athletics competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 15, 2016. (Photo credit: ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images)

by Alejandro Munévar, AIPS Young Reporter, Colombia

 

DOHA, May 2, 2017 - He might be one of the top three South American triple jumpers and finished fifth at the Rio Olympics, but John Murillo wants more. The Colombian is about to turn 33, and even if he is not as young as he wants, he is not old enough to think about retirement, either. Actually, he says he will compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, despite he will be 37.

 

Born in Apartado, one of the smallest and most violent towns in Colombia, Murillo recalls his early years using a local expression, color de hormiga (ant’s colour), reserved for something that is really hard. “We are a big family and as you can imagine I didn’t live in a big house. I don't mean now it is easy, but in that time my mother said it was ‘color de hormiga’,” he said to AIPS, while waiting for his manager to confirm his flight gate to travel to Madrid. He will compete at the Diamond League in Doha, and he has been invited to 3 of 5 competitions. That’s his job now, but it was not always the case.

 

Murillo started working at a very young age, selling fruit at local markets, among other informal jobs: “The fact that I was kid didn't matter, we had debts and they were growing as quickly, just as I did." he admits. "By the time I was in my last year of school, I was doing hammer throw, but I thought about becoming a policeman, because we needed money." But a teacher at his school didn't let him quit sport. By the time, long and triple jump were not in his sights.

 

John grew up with Caterine Ibarguen, a gold medalist at the Rio Olympics. “Catherine made better use of the opportunities she had, not like me. My marks never arrived to my country’s top 10 and I spent too much time in that. I didn't want to listen to anyone. Until someone opened my eyes and I tried with triple and long jump”, he says.

 

It was a good decision. Since then, Murillo has managed to train and become one of the world’s best. It took a bit more than he wanted, but as he reflects, better late than never.

 

In 2006, during the South American Championship, his first participation in triple jump, he leapt to 16.33 meters. Since then he has improved his personal best to 17.09 meters and he thinks he can improve even more this year. In the meantime, he has re-written Colombian Athletics’ history. He was the first male athlete in the country to obtain an Olympic Diploma. “Probably for countries with more history in athletics it is nothing, but for us it is a sign of hard work, although lacking support, sometimes”, he reckons.

 

Murillo will be participating for the second consecutive year in the Diamond League. And as he puts it, “I am a late bloomer, but the important thing is that I did it and the effort is being rewarded”.

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