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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of April 23 - 29, 2003


Derek Parra
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.

Derek Parra

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 medal.

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.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.