to speak Saturday
At Hispanic symposium in SV
There is no better role model for young
student/athletes, and particularly Hispanic kids, than 2002 Olympic speedskating
gold medalist Derek Parra, 33, of Park City, Utah.
Parra is the first Mexican-American to
compete in, and medal, in the Winter Olympics.
He will give the keynote address during
the 14th annual Hispanic Youth Symposium Saturday, April 26 at 8 p.m. at the Sun
Valley Indoor Ice Rink.
You may remember Parra as one of the 2002
Winter Olympic athletes who worked at The Home Depot in West Valley, Utah as
part of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Olympic Job Opportunities Program.
A 5-4, 140-pounder who seems tiny in a
long track speedskating world dominated by tall six-foot Europeans, Parra has
worked for everything in his productive life.
One of four children who grew up in a
predominantly Hispanic and economically strained neighborhood of San Bernardino,
Ca., Parra started inline skating as a teenager and became a world champion.
He attended Dwight D. Eisenhower High
School in Rialto, Ca.
In 1984 Parra began roller skating. He and
his brother Gilbert Jr., who were raised by their father Gilbert after Derek’s
parents split up, took to roller skating in the local Stardust Roller Rink.
His father gave Derek $4 to go to the
rink. After paying the $3.75 admission, he had 25 cents left. Part of the
night’s program was the staging of two-lap races. The top prize was a ticket for
a Coke. It was primarily out of a need to quench his own thirst that Derek began
a lifetime of speed skating.
By 1996, Derek Parra had become the most
decorated athlete in the history of inline.
As an inliner Parra was a three-time
national champion, two-time overall world champion, two-time world record holder
in the 1500 meters and 42 kilometers. He earned 18 individual gold medals.
He was the most decorated athlete at the
1995 Pan-American Games—winning five gold medals, two silvers and a bronze
A year later, seeking an Olympic medal to
complete his trophy chest, Parra switched to ice skates and earned a spot on the
1998 U.S. Olympic team at Nagano, Japan.
Parra married his longtime girlfriend
Tiffany in June 1999 at Orlando, Fla., which is about the time he entered the
Home Depot’s Olympic Job Opportunities program. His wife worked three jobs while
Parra trained and worked. Their daughter Mia was born in 2001.
In 2000, he was the U.S. all-around
champion and Parra set a new American record in the 1500-meter event. He set
another U.S. record at 1500m during the 2001 World Single Distance
Championships—sealing his trip to Salt Lake City.
One of Parra’s competitive trademarks is
that he always eats a pack of Fig Newtons the night before a race. He credits
his success to the fact that he actually enjoys training. His strongest
influences are family, friends and faith.
All the hard work paid off when Parra won
the Olympic 1500m speedskating gold medal with a world record time of 1:43.95 at
Salt Lake City.
The gold medal came just days after Parra
finished with a silver medal and a new American record in the Olympic 5000m. He
wasn’t expected to be a factor and had been shooting for just a top 10 finish.
Since bringing home the gold, Parra has
used his blossoming celebrity to give back to the Latino community in a number
of ways. He is particularly active in education.
Derek is a spokesperson for the National
Hispanic Press Foundation to encourage education among Latinos. He has
established scholarships earmarked for Latino students.
And he has been nominated as one of
Hispanic Business Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S.
Looking back on his rise, Parra considers
"beating the odds," and getting to where he is today as his greatest
accomplishments. It is a "far cry from southern California," he says.
He loves talking with others and teaching.
The friendships he has made with others are his most treasured keepsakes.