Peruvian long-distance runner Ines Melchor
, who holds the South American record for the marathon, is entering the final stretch of her career with the dream of winning the gold medal at the upcoming 2019 Pan American Games
, 32, said in an interview with EFE that for her the Pan Am Games —to be held July 26-August 11— will be the most important event of the year, a greater priority than the IAAF World Athletics Championship in Qatar
, which begins on September 27.
"It's the first time I'll be able to compete in this kind of championship in my country," she said of the Pan Am Games, explaining her decision to compete in the marathon at 2019 Lima and run in the 10,000m in Qatar.
"The marathon is the test that suits me the most in recent years. I'm determined to finish in the top three," Melchor added.
She ran her first marathon in 2011 and found it a struggle to reach the finish line. Just three years later, Melchor was eighth in the 2014 Berlin Marathon with a time of 2:26.48, a new record for Peru and South America.
A two-time winner of the Santiago Marathon, Peru's Melchor finished 25th in the marathon at the 2012 Olympics in London
, the best among Latin American competitors.
The Peruvian acknowledged that beating her own South American record "is quite complicated."
"Every time we try to get closer, it gets tough. The closest we have come is 1 minute, but we are going to train to try to improve that timing as much as possible," she said.
Melchor grew up at an altitude of more than 3,000m (9,836 ft.) in the Andean region of Huancayo
, the cradle of Peru's best long-distance runners.
"We, long-distance athletes, are more than 2,500m above sea level. The training routes help us," she noted.
Before becoming a marathoner, Melchor won a pair of gold medals —in the 5000m and the 10,000m— at the 2009 South American Championships in Athletics and she holds the Peruvian national record in both of those events.
Once she retires, Melchor said that she would like to dedicate herself to the legal profession, having earned a law degree a decade ago.
"I would like to support new talent that can represent our country in the future. There are many children who I can serve as inspiration and that fill me with pride. It is very important to practice sports because it helps you to have character, to be responsible, punctual and disciplined," Melchor concluded.
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