Luis Grijalva makes his dream come true, representing Guatemala at the Olympics

Luis Grijalva of Guatemala, left, competes in a men's 5,000-meter qualifying heat.
Luis Grijalva of Guatemala, left, competes in a men’s 5,000-meter qualifying heat at the Olympics.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Luis Grijalva finished 12th in the men’s 5,000-meter final on Friday night at Olympic Stadium.

He could not have been happier.

“Finished 12th in the world,” he said. “It’s insane.”

Grijalva, 22, was running for Guatemala, where he was born. He said his parents brought him to the United States when he was 1, and he was raised in Northern California and attended college at Northern Arizona.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “I feel like it’s a privilege and honor to represent Guatemala, just for a country that’s over 15 million people but also where my family started.”


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Grijalva is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. It temporarily protects those who came to the United States as children and have lived here without legal immigration status.

“It’s an honor but it’s also privilege because I get to be a voice for over 600,000 Dreamers and other immigrants as well,” he said. “I’m glad I can be an inspiration to people — and people inspire me to run great for them too.”

Grijalva said his opportunity to become an Olympian began when he ran a qualifying time in his last college race. He said he found an immigration attorney to help him obtain a permit to leave — and return — to the United States. The process, he said, typically takes at least 90 days.

“She was awesome,” he said, adding, “It was a short turnaround of time, kind of last minute. I didn’t know I was coming here until last Monday.”

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Grijalva said he arrived a few days before his qualifying race. He advanced to Friday’s final, and he posted a national-record time of 13 minutes 10.09 seconds, about 12 seconds behind gold-medalist Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda.

Grijalva has enjoyed his time in the Olympic village.

“It’s special seeing people, from the tallest basketball players in the world to the smallest ladies in the world for the gymnastics,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome to see the diversity in all sports.”