Steps to Success
How a dedicated racewalking coach transformed the life of his protégé
WALKING AND WINNING With help from Coach Jaime, young Chavez is a champion.
A.;;C. JAIME fidgets nervously in the
bleachers. The normally easygoing
coach, 75, has traveled from Texas
to Ohio to root for one of his former
high school stars, Alejandro Chavez,
in the sport of racewalking.
The starter’s gun blasts. Jaime focuses on the 18-year-old athlete. “¡No
te esperes! ‘Don’t wait!’” he bellows as
Chavez hangs back in second place.
Chavez gains speed, grabbing the
lead, and Jaime raises his arms as his
protégé—the new National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
indoor 3,000-meter champion—
crosses the finish line. A grinning
Chavez rushes to hug Jaime. “I call
him Coach, but he is more like a
grandfather,” says Chavez, a freshman at Missouri Baptist University.
A married father of six grown chil-
dren, grandfather of 21 grandchildren,
and former mayor of Pharr, Texas
(where he coaches his South Texas
Walking Club), Jaime sees himself
in youths like Chavez, whom he
has mentored for the past decade.
A second-generation Mexican
American, Jaime grew up poor and
lost his father at age 5. He became a
successful CPA partly because of the
mentoring by his own high school
football coach. Currently retired,
Jaime has taught hundreds of kids—
mostly Latinos from low-income
households—to compete. He annually
donates about $20,000 of his invest-
ment earnings to buy supplies and train
30 local kids throughout the year, and
train another 20 to 40 from around the
country for his annual winter camp.
They need his guidance. Racewalking
is harder than running, Jaime says,
because of two rules: A racewalker
must keep the lead leg straight at the
point of contact, and one foot on the
ground at all times, or risk ejection by
judges. Elite walkers go to the Olym-
pics. But even nonathletes can enjoy
the sport, says Jaime, who started
racewalking in his 50s to lose weight.