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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Rommel Pacheco: 20 years worth of dives

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Veronica Garibay
Veronica Garibayhttp://yucatanmagazine.com
Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

Rommel Pacheco has become one of the most recognized and beloved Mexican athletes in the country. His work as a diver has taken him all over the world.

Rommel Pacheco, mid-dive in the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Courtesy

The 35-year-old has participated in four Olympic Games: Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008, Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and now Tokyo, in 2021, where he was also the flag bearer of the Mexican sports team.

His greatest victories came at the Pan American Games, where he won gold and silver medals in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015. In 2016 he received the gold for the three-meter springboard in the World Championship in Rio de Janeiro. 

A year later, he won the silver along with Viviana del Angel in the World Swimming Championships in Budapest, in the mixed diving team. 

This year, for his final competition, Rommel left unawarded, but with the praise and support of the entire country. 

Rommel Pacheco and his coach, Ma Jin, after his final competition. Photo: Courtesy

In the next-to-last dive of his career, Pacheco missed a 3.4 degree of difficulty dive and received scores of 3 that pulled him away from the medal zone for good. 

China’s Xiyi Xie was crowned with 558.75 points, while his compatriot Zongyuan Wang took silver with 534.90 and England’s Jack Laugher won bronze with 518.

After obtaining sixth place in the competition, the athlete cried as he hugged his coach Ma Jin, while competitors and members of the Olympic delegations from other countries applauded in his honor.

Rommel Pacheco in the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Courtesy

In recent days, the five-foot-six-tall diver announced that with his participation in the Tokyo Olympic Games, he would end his sporting activity and retire from diving. 

This has concluded a career of over 20 years.

His time in the pools began at the young age of 8. In September 1995, he emerged as the best Yucatecan in the II National Tournament of Sports Talents in Diving. During that competition, Pacheco won gold in the one-meter springboard and bronze in the three-meter springboard.

Pacheco in the beginning of his young career, diving in the sports center “Bancarios”, in Mérida, Yucatán. Photo: Courtesy

From that moment forward, he received the attention of the media, sports federations, and fans, who supported him throughout his early yet successful career.

Already in 1999, when he was only 12, the Mexican Diving Federation awarded him as a revelation athlete.

And so came 20 years of medals, prizes, and recognition which culminated this week, in Tokyo’s Olympics. 

But Rommel does not exit the diving stage entirely empty-handed. 

In his social media platforms he is followed by tens of thousands of people who have supported him during his sports career, and his celebrity appearances in reality shows such as: “Exatlón México”, “Bailando con las estrellas”, “¿Quién es la máscara?” and “Guerreros México.”

Additionally, for 11 years he was part of the Mexican Army in the rank of lieutenant, and, in 2021, he participated in the intermediate federal elections as a candidate of the National Action Party (PAN). He was a candidate for a federal deputy position, which he won on election day this June 6.

Rommel Pacheco speaking at Mexico’s Senate. Photo: Courtesy

Today, he is a beloved Yucatecan figure recognized all over the country, praised for his commitment to the sport he loves and his involvement in institutions and associations. 

As Rommel himself said as he left the Tokyo stage, “Today I’m hanging up my swimsuit. I am happy with all the love from the people and the diving family. I’m retiring on the best stage, with a sixth-place and being the flag bearer.”

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