Sanchez aims for Olympic splash

By Brian Wiencek

Now that the 1992 Winter Olympics have concluded, a new focus is being directed towards the Summer Olympics. And one NIU athlete is staring intently at the thought of competing at Barcelona, Spain.

Art Sanchez of the NIU men’s swimming team will be trying out for the Columbian Olympic team. Sanchez, who is in his fourth and final year of eligibility, has helped his team to a 5-5 record with his involvement in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and the 400-yard meter relay team. However, he will widen his range of events to the 50- and 100-meter freestyle, sprint and butterfly if he makes the Columbian team.

Sanchez was born in Columbia, South America, making him eligible to try out for its Olympic team. After living there for two years, he and his family moved to Chicago, where he resided until coming to NIU.

Sanchez has been training for the Olympics ever since he found out three years ago that he had a possible chance to compete. Since then, he has contended in the U.S.S. Junior Nationals, the U.S.S. Senior Nationals and the U.S. Open. However, if he had still been living in Columbia, he would have a harder time preparing for the tryout.

“I have the advantage of living here in the States and training with the best swimmers in the world,” said Sanchez. “In Columbia, because their priorities are different, the average swimmer is about 12 or 13 years old. When they get older, they start working or go to school. So, the high class athletes live and train here in the States and represent their country.”

Though most people would think that the possibility of being an Olympic athlete could cause some conflicts, Sanchez seems to be balancing everything very well.

“It’s really hard,” Sanchez said. “School right now is extremely hard. Sometimes my priorities get mixed up a little bit. I’m thinking too much athletics when I should be thinking academics, but overall I’ve been handling it pretty well.”

Along with himself, others are hoping for success from the senior, especially NIU swimming coach Jeanne Fleck.

“She’s (Fleck) pretty excited for me, and she’s going to help me out a lot,” Sanchez said. “We’re planning on doing some time trials after conference (which starts this Wednesday at the University of Illinois-Chicago).”

Though he has been through a lot to get to the Olympics, there are still some obstacles left that he must overcome.

“I’m dealing with a third world country. There’s a lot of politics and bureaucracy I have to go through,” Sanchez said. “Basically, if they decide to support me and fund my way, it seems good.”

Overall, Sanchez is very optimistic about his chances to compete in the 1992 Summer Olympics.

“If everything goes right, hopefully, I’ll be able to represent my country in Barcelona this summer.”