Derek Parra
Born: San Bernadino, California

At the 2002 Winter Olympics, Derek Parra set the world record in the 1,500-meter speed skating competition, making him the first Mexican American to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics.

“To not dream is a terrible crime. Everybody wants to win, to succeed. The people who are willing to prepare for that are the people who will succeed because they are willing to put in the hours, the days, the years to achieve their dreams.”

Parra started skating at a local roller rink as a child. Although extremely successful as an in-line skater, Parra realized that he would never become an Olympic contender in that sport so he dedicated himself to speed skating.

“You don't have to win to be successful. You don't have to win a gold medal or set a world record. If you're improving every day in your life, constantly trying to raise the bar of your performance, whether it's in education, or sports, or just life, then you're succeeding.”














Derek Parra, athlete. Photograph by Luis Mallo, taken at the Utah Olympic Oval, Salt Lake City, Utah


Parra, the first Mexican American to compete in the Olympic Winter Games, was selected to carry the World Trade Center flag into the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The emotional evening inspired Parra through a remarkable 5,000-meter performance on the opening day of the Games. His silver medal set the stage for a world record finish and Olympic Gold Medal in the 1,500-meter event.

“The mind is a powerful thing. You really have to take chances to make your dreams come true.”











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