Born in New York City to Dominican parents, track star and Olympic gold medalist Félix Sánchez was raised by his grandmother in San Diego, where he attended Mesa College and competed for former Olympian Arnie Robinson.
Sánchez would go on to capture the gold medal at the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games and a world championship in 2001 and 2003.
“Mesa gave me the (academic and athletic) foundation I needed," Sánchez said after winning his first gold medal. “Mesa grounded me.”
After graduating from Mesa, Sánchez moved north to Los Angeles in 1998 and enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he majored in psychology. At USC, he was a Pac-10 champion in the 400 meter hurdles and an All-American relay champion in the 1600 meters. Between 2001 and 2004, he won 43 races in a row in the 400 meter hurdles, including the 2001 and 2003 World Championships.
Sánchez opted to represent the Dominican Republic internationally, and he made his debut for that nation in 1999. He credits his grandmother, Lillian Morcelo, for giving him a strong sense of his Dominican roots, and he won the Dominican Republic’s first gold medal during the 2003 Pan American while breaking the Pan American Games record in the 400 meter hurdles.
He also won the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the Dominican Republic at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
At the age of 34, Sánchez entered the 2012 London Olympics and posted the fastest qualifying time for the 400 meter hurdles. He followed that by winning the gold with a time of 47.63 seconds, the same as his winning time in Athens in 2004. Sánchez thus became the oldest man to win an Olympic gold medal in that event.