Unusual for a speed skating sprinter Claudia was an easy-going uncomplicated person. She responded to normal coaching and there was no need to look deep into the box of tricks for ways of dealing with her.
Adopted by an Auntie she lived a simple life without the luxury of hot water or television. After her success a male gent enquired about Claudia’s status and asked me to put in a good word for him. I made sure it cost him dearly and the house hold and Claudia benefitted.
I only want to do well in the overall
I only had to get heavy on Claudia once, she was skating beautifully and I was constantly reinforcing her that she could win at the worlds. About two weeks prior to Worlds she told my wife Cheryl her training buddy that she just wanted to do well in the overall. Well I nearly jumped out of a tree upon hearing this. When I next talked to Claudia there was some strong words and reinforcement in the conversation.
Claudia’s Bello form
On the Big open Bello road circuit with big sweeping corners Claudia was killing Cheryl and Luz Mery in training. She was thrashing them to such an extent that one day I hauled Luz Mery and Cheryl aside and said sorry this is a really fast power course and I don’t think you have enough speed to do well on it. Trouble was I was comparing them to someone who proved to be around half a second faster than anyone else in the World. Cheryl and Luz Mery proved to be as fast as the others they were racing at worlds to.
For the time trial Claudia didn’t want to be sitting around, she wanted to go first and was in the first handful to go. She set a time that Pilia from Italy didn’t get near and became Colombia’s first every World Champion.
I think in a big hugathon in the middle of the Bello oval I was that overjoyed I fainted. With Claudia’s win she didn’t go after the 500m and training partner Luz Mery was 2nd. In the 1,500m final she sacrificed herself and done a great lead out for her training buddy Cheryl Begg. With 500 metres to go Claudia led out, Cheryl came through 100 metres from home to take gold and Claudia jumped in behind for an excellent silver. In the relay Claudia was mowing down the Italian team but being a person with no malice in her bones she didn’t give them a wide enough berth. A wide leg felled her as she was going past with 20 metres to go and a second gold was lost.
Claudia was a beautifully balanced skater and a rare one, in the fact that both sides of the body worked equal with both the arms and the legs. Someone capable of winning multiple World titles, but for one reason or another it didn’t happen.
Post Bello and outside sponsor
After Bello a big name cordial drink company sponsored Claudia and her world team mate Jenny Duarte from Cali. With some supposed experts directing them their status was supposedly going to be elevated by their sponsors connections. It drove a wedge between us and other skaters. Claudia unfortunately never again aspired to such great heights.
But being the first World Champion in your country in a certain sport ensures your status is enduring.
For the 1996 Worlds in her home city of Cali Claudia acted as an ambassador for the championships. Her bubbly personality scored points not only for herself but for her country.