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Jefferson Leonardo Pérez Quezada (born July 1, 1974 in Cuenca) is a retired Ecuadorian race walker. He specialized in the 20 km event, in which he has won the only two medals his country has ever achieved in the Olympic Games.

Jefferson Pérez
Pérez in action
Personal information
Full nameJefferson Leonardo Pérez Quezada
Born (1974-07-01) July 1, 1974 (age 45)
Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
Alma materUniversity of Azuay
Height1.67 m (5 ft 6 in)
Weight60 kg (132 lb)
Country Ecuador
RetiredSeptember 21, 2008 (age 34)
Achievements and titles
Olympic finals1996 Summer Olympics
2000 Summer Olympics
2004 Summer Olympics
2008 Summer Olympics

He won the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, becoming the youngest-ever gold medal winner in the 20 km walk event. Following his win he embarked on a 459 km pilgrimage, walking, jogging and running from Quito's Franciscan cathedral to his hometown of Cuenca.[1] In the 2008 Olympics he won the silver medal in the same competition at 34 years of age, before announcing his retirement from the sport.[2]

In the 2003 World Championships in Paris, France, Pérez also set the world best performance (as there are no world records in race walking) with 1:17:21 in the 20 km.

Pérez had fourth-place finishes in the 20 km walk at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Personal lifeEdit

Jefferson was born in El Vecino, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Cuenca, to Manuel Jesús Pérez and María Lucrecia Quezada. Like others in his neighborhood, his family was of limited economic means. He attended the elementary schools Eugenio Espejo and Gabriela Cevallos. Afterwards he entered the Francisco Febres Cordero high school, at the same time working to help out his family.

The beginningsEdit

Jefferson with the Ecuadorian flag.

He entered race-walking by accident. To prepare for a walk that served as a high school physical education exam, he asked his brother Fabián to train for one week next to the group of athletes directed by trainer Luis Muñoz. Muñoz decided to invite him to compete in a race. With few weeks of preparation he won the race AID, winning the right of representing Ecuador in New York City and London as a sport ambassador.

Initially he participated in distance competitions of five kilometers. Later he had to make a radical decision, which was to dedicate himself completely to race walking. His first regional trophy in the 5K walk during the South American Pre-Junior championship held in his native city of Cuenca.

His first international achievement occurred when he won the bronze medal in the Junior World Cup of Athletics in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in 1990.

Two years later, he won the Junior World title in Seoul, Korea, followed shortly by victories in South American and Pan-American open competitions. His crowning achievement in race-walking came with a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996. He won a silver medal, his second medal, at the Beijing Olympic Games.

He also won the silver at the World Championships of Seville in 1999, and unprecedented golds at Paris in 2003, Helsinki in 2005, and Osaka in 2007 for his third straight world title, the only person that has been able to achieve that. In France he broke the world record and he received a financial bonus.

Perez walked his final race at the World Race Walking Challenge final in Murcia, Spain. He finished third in that race and second in the overall challenge standings.[3]

Personal bestsEdit

Event Result Venue Date
Road walk
10 km 38:24 min   Kraków 8 Jun 2002
20 km 1:17:21 hrs   Paris Saint-Denis 23 Aug 2003
50 km 3:53:04 hrs   Athens 27 Aug 2004
Track walk
10,000 m 39:50.73 min   Winnipeg 15 Jul 1993
20,000 m 1:20:54.9 hrs (ht)   Cali 5 Jul 2008

International competitionsEdit

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing   Ecuador
1988 South American Youth Championships Cuenca, Ecuador 1st 5 km 24:44.4 min A
1989 South American Junior Championships Montevideo, Uruguay 1st 10,000 m 45:03.71
1990 South American Junior Championships Bogotá, Colombia 1st 10,000 m 42:57.95 A
World Junior Championships Plovdiv, Bulgaria 3rd 10,000 m 40:08.23
South American Race Walking Cup (U20) Guayaquil, Ecuador 1st 10 km 44:31.9
South American Youth Championships Lima, Perú 1st 5 km 19:49.54 min
1991 World Indoor Championships Sevilla, Spain 10th 5000 m 20:20.05
South American Junior Championships Asunción, Paraguay 1st 10,000 m 43:10.1
Pan American Junior Championships Kingston, Jamaica 2nd 10,000 m 44:06.11
South American Race Walking Cup (U20) Bogotá, Colombia 1st 10 km 42:48.6 A
1992 Ibero-American Championships Seville, Spain 3rd 20 km 1:25:50.5 hrs
Olympic Games Barcelona, Spain 20 km DNF
South American Junior Championships Lima, Perú 1st 10,000 m 45:31.2
World Junior Championships Seoul, South Korea 1st 10,000 m 40:42.66
South American Race Walking Cup (U20) São Paulo, Brazil 1st 10 km 45:39
1993 Bolivarian Games Cochabamba, Bolivia 1st 20 km 1:26:19 hrs A
South American Junior Championships Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela 1st 10,000 m 42:24.2
South American Championships Lima, Perú 1st 20 km 1:24:31
Pan American Junior Championships Winnipeg, Canada 1st 10,000 m 39:50.73
1994 South American Race Walking Cup Sucre, Bolivia 1st 20 km 1:30:04 A
Pan American Race Walking Cup Atlanta, Georgia, United States 3rd 20 km 1:24:34
Ibero-American Championships Mar del Plata, Argentina 5th 20 km 1:26:08.2 hrs
1995 South American Race Walking Cup Cuenca, Ecuador 1st 20 km 1:27:46 A
Pan American Games Mar del Plata, Argentina 1st 20 km 1:22:53
World Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 33rd 20 km 1:34:20
1996 South American Race Walking Cup São Paulo, Brazil 1st 20 km 1:25:33
Olympic Games Atlanta, Georgia, United States 1st 20 km 1:20:07
1997 South American Race Walking Cup Bogotá, Colombia 1st 20 km 1:26:19 A
World Race Walking Cup Poděbrady, Czech Republic 1st 20 km 1:18:24
World Championships Athens, Greece 14th 20 km 1:24:46
Bolivarian Games Arequipa, Perú 1st 20 km 1:27:54 hrs A
1998 South American Race Walking Cup Bogotá, Colombia 1st 20 km 1:22:53 A
Pan American Race Walking Cup Miami, Florida, United States 50 km DNF
Goodwill Games Uniondale, New York, United States 3rd 20,000 m 1:29:18.4
South American Games Cuenca, Ecuador 1st 20 km 1:23:11 A
1999 World Race Walking Cup Mézidon-Canon, France 50 km DNF
Pan American Games Winnipeg, Canada 3rd 20 km 1:20:46
World Championships Seville, Spain 2nd 20 km 1:24:19
2000 South American Race Walking Cup Lima, Perú 1st 20 km 1:30:50
Pan American Race Walking Cup Poza Rica, Veracruz, México 3rd 20 km 1:24.36
Olympic Games Sydney, Australia 4th 20 km 1:20:18
2001 World Championships Edmonton, Canada 8th 20 km 1:22:20
Universiade Beijing, China 5th 20 km 1:26:11
Bolivarian Games Ambato, Ecuador 1st 20 km 1:30:27 hrs A
South American Race Walking Cup Cuenca, Ecuador 1st 20 km 1:26:21 A
Pan American Race Walking Cup 2nd
South American Race Walking Cup 1st Team 10 pts
Pan American Race Walking Cup 2nd 21 pts
2002 World Race Walking Cup Turin, Italy 1st 20 km 1:21:26
4th Team 61 pts
South American Race Walking Cup Puerto Saavedra, Chile 20 km DNF
Ibero-American Championships Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala 1st 20,000 m 1:23:51 A
2003 Pan American Race Walking Cup Chula Vista, California, United States 1st 20 km 1:23:12
2nd Team 13 pts
Pan American Games Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 1st 20 km 1:23:06
World Championships Paris Saint-Denis, France 1st 20 km 1:17:21
2004 World Race Walking Cup Naumburg, Germany 1st 20 km 1:18:42
2nd Team 35 pts
Olympic Games Athens, Greece 4th 20 km 1:20:38
12th 50 km 3:53:04
2005 South American Championships Cali, Colombia 1st 20 km 1:22:54 A
World Championships Helsinki, Finland 1st 20 km 1:18:35
Bolivarian Games Armenia, Colombia 2nd 20 km 1:24:22 hrs A
2006 South American Race Walking Championships Cochabamba, Bolivia 1st 20 km 1:26:27 A
2nd Team 12 pts
World Race Walking Cup A Coruña, Spain 2nd 20 km 1:19:08
7th Team 68 pts
2007 Pan American Race Walking Cup Balneário Camboriú, Brazil 1st 20 km 1:25:08
Pan American Games Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 1st 20 km 1:22.08
World Championships Osaka, Japan 1st 20 km 1:22:20
2008 Central American and Caribbean Championships Cali, Colombia 1st[4] 20,000 m 1:20:54.9 A
Olympic Games Beijing, China 2nd 20 km 1:19:15

In popular cultureEdit

He appeared on Japanese TV show Hey! Spring of Trivia multiple times - in one episode, he tested how long it actually took to walk to a train station from an apartment advertised as "5 minutes away" (for him, it took under 2 minutes); in another, the show tested whether he would walk or run away when threatened (he ran).


  1. ^ "True Olympians"
  2. ^ "Ecuadorian walker Jefferson Perez trains alone for Beijing-2008", Xinhua, April 23, 2008.
  3. ^ "Fernandez and Feitor take Murcia wins; Overall titles for Tallent & Plätzer – Race Walking Challenge Final". IAAF. 21 September 2008. Archived from the original on 22 September 2008. Retrieved 23 September 2008.
  4. ^ Guest

External linksEdit