Kress native describes challenging road to Rio Olympics - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Kress native describes challenging road to Rio Olympics

Alex Ortiz at Rio (Source: Ortiz) Alex Ortiz at Rio (Source: Ortiz)
Alex Ortiz at Rio (Source: Ortiz) Alex Ortiz at Rio (Source: Ortiz)
Alex at Kress (Source: Ortiz) Alex at Kress (Source: Ortiz)
Alex training (Source: Ortiz) Alex training (Source: Ortiz)
Alex training w/o ice (Source: KCBD) Alex training w/o ice (Source: KCBD)

It's a journey to the Olympics one Kress man has dreamed of since he was a child, and it finally happened this year, but not in the way he once thought.

Alex Ortiz is 26 years old, and credits his position at the Rio Olympics to his hometown.

"If it wasn't for this community, maybe I wouldn't be the dreamer that I was when I was eight years old," he said, "It was in my room…I would just come out and think, 'There's more to this. There's more to me.'"

Alex drove 18 hours from Los Angeles to stop by his hometown of 715 people at the end of June, before he began the journey of a lifetime.

"Sometimes I really don't believe it's really happening," he said, "because how are you supposed to feel when you realize you've reached your goal?"

It's a journey that began over 15 years ago for Alex.

"What really sparked my interest in athletics was the 2000 Olympics," he said. "I just had a really strong feeling that that's what I was supposed to do with my life."

But Alex's favorite event was speed skating.

"I had never ice skated in my life," Alex said.

Even so, he began to chase his vision without the ice.

"If you see behind me, City Hall, there's only that little bit of concrete," Alex said. "Me and my sister would come roller blade on that concrete."

Those games ended after he watched the 2006 Olympics.

"I absolutely knew that I had to make a move," he said. "I was 16, and I had to make this happen. I was able to walk around this community with my clipboard and my idea, my goal, what I wanted to do…and within two weeks I was able to raise $2,000."

That was enough for him to begin at the Olympic training facility in Milwaukee.

"I remember driving and looking back at Kress when we were driving to the airport," Alex said, "and I just remember, honestly…I did shed a tear."

Training with elite athletes proved challenging for Alex, who was a beginner.

"So many people would just zoom around me," he said. "It took me probably six months to learn and to start entering into competitions, and then where I was good enough to post some good times."

But even his personal best times were not enough.

"I got to that point where I missed the Vancouver Olympic trials by two seconds, which is a fair gap," Alex said, "but that's still an accomplishment that I'm very proud of, being that it was first year of competing as an U.S. athlete."

After nearly ten years of training, Alex was at a crossroads.

"I had a lot of support, but it was really tough," Alex said. "I actually decided to retire from athletics after the Vancouver Olympic attempt, and then just decided to get a career in sports."

He knew he wanted a job that would not compromise his goals.

"I really felt like that Olympic journey was still in me," Alex said.

That trust led him to an exciting moment in 2014.

"The Rio 2016 Olympic committee invited me to apply for their volunteer program," Alex said. "The application process was a two-year process, and we had to learn about the Olympic movement."

But all that effort was worth it to Alex.

"They extended an invitation to see if I was interested in being involved in the U.S.A House, and to be involved with the U.S. Olympic Committee," Alex said. "I really wanted to live and accomplish my dreams of being able to work with athletes and help them accomplish their dreams…because I personally knew what it was like for people to help me."

Along with being a print distribution manager for field hockey, Alex is also a hospitality representative.

"We're going to be responsible for making sure that everything runs smoothly," he said, "that everyone is going to have a great time."

Alex hopes his Olympics story will help inspire others.

"Whether you're from the city or whether you're from a town like Kress, Texas…if you have a dream, if you have a vision, you will have to fight for that vision," he said. "Maybe I won't be there as an athlete, but I can be there to actually make these games happen and be able to leave a legacy of Kress in Rio De Janeiro.

For more about Alex's trip and a behind-the-scenes look at the Olympics, check out his videos on our KCBD NewsChannel 11 Facebook page.

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