The Press once described her as the woman 10 out of 10, ar La Bo Dereck.
At one stage she could have just about been classified as the most well-known woman in Colombia, with her own LMT fabric business and a lavish lifestyle akin to the rich and famous. Some people envied her for this, but as a sportsperson out there in the real world away from the glamour and glitz where it really counted she was one very determined and admirable young lady. As this story unfolds you will see the intense pressure she was under to perform.
Beauty defied her underlying strength and toughness
Luz Mery Tristan rode the 1986 Ladies version “Tour De France” and finished the event.
When I took on the job as her coach we were standing in the middle of the Cali track looking up to the mountain at the back of the city. She looked me straight in the eye and said “Billy if you say to me that I have to climb that mountains walking track twenty times per day to be a World Champion I will.”
As a test of her intestinal fortitude she cycled the famous Cali Dias e Ocho hill climb with a broken clavicle and her arm in a sling. She rode it to the very top, 18 km up with no respite. Luz Mery and Cheryl got down around 56 to 57 minutes making it the fastest ladies time for the mountain climb. The two of them along with fellow World Champion Claudia Ruiz used to ride it at least two times per week. The male riders hated being passed by them and would immediately attempt to go back past. After two or three attempts with the same result many would turn around and go back down. One day a cycling coach of a big team approached me and wanted to know what days I was there with my skaters (usually Yepes, Nando, Julian and Sergio were there also) and the Girls . His guys didn’t like coming and being beaten by the girls so when I told him our training times he ended up changing his.
We done weights and offskate/plyometrics three times per week. Luz Mery felt the low walking in particular, as it progressed and the pain set in I would ask her three questions every time.
1. The medal – she would answer ora (gold)
2. Estapes – dos (two steps to get to the top of the dias)
3. Camisetas – muchos colores (the rainbow world jersey)
With these three questions and me eyeballing her three times per week at offskate she couldn’t lose focus on why we were there and what we were doing. With the end reward in sight and in mind.
The immense pressure Luz Mery had to overcome
First off Luz Mery was not highly coordinated. Then I had to be blunt to her and tell her that many of her crashes were due to her top-heavy body structure and narrow hips. The Boen 146 plate was not a big enough, stable base to effectively support her and we needed to go up to a 154 Boen Plate. This sorted out the constant crashing factor.
Then it was alleged her partner would not marry her unless she became a World Champion. So for one year he would pay for the best doctor, masseuse, coach and dietitian but she had to win.
Luz Mery was running her own fabric factory LMT and employing about six to ten workers and that meant everyday contact. She lived in her parents home and her father was dying of cancer. She also ran a couple of skating clubs and had to organize them. Her phone calls to and from were constant, no peace whatsoever in was 24/7. Plus her social calendar and demanding fiance to keep happy.
Then the coaches requirements, pressure and stress tests
With all this support there was a big expectation on her to become Colombia’s first World Speed Skating Champion. All this pressure and expectation from everyone else before you even mention the coaches requirements. The three girls, Claudia, Cheryl and Luz Mery done every training session together. They were together at the gym, on the bike, at offskate and on the glute ham gastroc machine. This specific machine was imported from Doctor Micheal Yessis. We used it three times per week and done three sets of fifteen reps plus the skate training with the club skaters.
I’m a great believer that STRESS is a function of life and you can’t escape it, being in marriage, relationships, sport, education or work. So there is a need to practice to handle it, much the same as PAIN. Pain is three-dimensional, physical, emotional and financial, you have to learn to cope with it.
So one day per week our special little group of three had to test themselves over two of the three distances on either bank track or road. A 300m time trial , a flying 500m or a standing 1,500m. They could pick which two, but I expected times to be lowered. Now usually a group of three doesn’t work out, but these three ladies worked in harmony and were great mates even though they all came from totally different backgrounds. Luz Mery a mid 26 year old deemed as having everything and wanting for nothing except a gold medal who lived under extreme pressure. Claudia a 19 year old easy-going young lady who was adopted by an Auntie and lived without hot water or television. Then Cheryl a 30 year old out of retirement. Having two children and a husband and who had spent the last decade running around after everyone else and now had a maid to do the work for her.
Pictured Luz Mery and Claudia, 1989
Bello Worlds, Colombia
We took an entire training team of our own to Bello and stayed in the country in an isolated farmhouse. I was concerned with the safety and boredom factors as well as trying to keep everyone happy and content. At one stage Luz Mery and Claudia made some trips into Medellin by themselves which wasn’t safe and of course everyone else complained as they weren’t allowed to go anywhere. Coming back along the tracks to get to the house late at night was dangerous. So one night I deliberately placed rocks on the track to block the way, to show them what could easily happen. This stopped the complaints and kept the group content.
When I took over the Colombian training we done a dummy runs on the dias. The skaters would stand on the number 1 position with their arms aloft while I announced in Spanglish Campeon Mundial along with their name and the distance. A practice medal and jersey presentation was made then with their arms aloft and eyes closed they visualised and savoured the moment as the rest of the team sang the national anthem. Three who stood through that process won gold at that World Champs.
With Claudia winning the first event and Cheryl winning a gold also the good friends understood the immense pressure Luz Mery was under. They both made minor sacrifices to give their friend the opportunity to achieve her goal, becoming World Champion and owning a prized rainbow Jersey.
After 23 years with no gold medals and only two silvers (Guillermo Leon Botero) and two bronzes (Luz Mery Tristan) Colombia came away with three gold medals, three silvers and two bronze at the Bello Champs. Gold to Ruiz, Tristan and G.L Botero. Silver to Garcia, Ruiz and Tristan. To top it off Colombia also won number one nation overall in the world.
It was a very pleasing personal result for me. The three ladies and good mates I coached all year won half the ladies gold and half the silver medals at the 1990 World Champs.
Life after skating, putting back into the sport
As a very public figure and entity Luz Mery went through some very trying times. Her husband and father of her five children Mario alleged to be the head of the cartel of Cali. She has raised five children who can be very proud of their mother and some are already walking in her shoes and at a high level in the skating field. Luz Mery runs a very successful club, LMT in Cali and skating school. She is putting back into the sport that she gave her all to succeed in.