Winning Olympic Gold with Half a Lung – Santiago Lange | Against All Odds
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Winning Olympic Gold with Half a Lung – Santiago Lange | Against All Odds

August 12, 2019


At these games, I was the
oldest sailor competing. From the day I decided
to join Ceci and participate in an Olympic
campaign, my dream was to win a gold
medal. One day they told me that I was
going to have a piece of my lung removed. The nine months
following the surgery until Rio required the greatest effort
of my sporting career by far. Santi never threw in the towel,
he never gave up. Never. (AGAINST ALL ODDS.
SANTIAGO LANGE) (PRESENTED BY BRIDGESTONE) Rio was exciting because the
same happens at sea as on land. Anything can happen. The first two or three days
after the championship started you saw that it was going to be
between those in front. Santiago and Cecilia were not
the best on any day of their Olympic campaign.
However, they did obtain the best average across the
championship. But, as always,
everything can fail. In fact, in the last race
he had it very difficult. (MEDAL RACE. SAILING NACRA 17) We were in first position for the Medal Race on the
general table, in a 20-minute race
where anything can happen. We had to defend
that first place. Absolutely nothing in it, so just one position change for any of those boats will
affect the whole of the race. Australia and Austria were the
two countries that posed the biggest threat. If we were in the first three,
we would win gold, for sure. And if we were in the top five,
we would be certain of a medal. The Medal Race encapsulates in 20 minutes all that my life
has been about. Sailing is in Santi’s blood. His family were sailors. His father competed
in a navy vessel. My husband took them out to
the boat, and he loved to see the river. Santiago could never stay
away from the water. He could not be far from water, from the sea, the stars, from his entire inner life. And he has a communion with
water that is out of the ordinary. (YACHTING CLUB SAN FERNANDO,
ARGENTINA) The only thing I wanted to do
was to sail. But my old man said to me,
“You have to study something.” There was no possibility of
continuing to sail and having no backup plan. We went to study together in
England when we were 18 or 20 years
old. We liked naval design. The only place where you could
study that was in England and there we went, thinking, both he and I,
that our future was going to be designing or constructing
ships. My father gave me money
for the whole year and we spent it in three
months, going to compete in three
international championships. He transported the ship
on a dolly, and then it was loaded on a
ferry and he went to France. Walking the three or four
kilometres with it until he got to the club,
he navigated, won, and then returned with the ship
and the trophy, bringing the dolly back with
him again. Santi won almost everything he
raced in. As a child, Santi won the
Optimist, then he won several World
Championships at Snipe. So I preferred to dedicate
myself to sailing professionally. In ’88 he was 26, when a sporting career is usually over for most
sportsmen. It was hard to imagine
that a person of that age was going to have the time
to do what Santi did next. It was the worst possible start
we could have had. And there it is, they’re
under way at the Nacra 17. This is the
final gold medal race. We, along with most of the
fleet, decided to go to the right
and really ease the sails. You don’t have right of way. The one trying to go left
has the right of way. Like a line of cars. Even before it began,
we received our first penalty. An issue with the Australians. They were coming second. If they had been first,
they would have won the gold. Basically, if you’re in the
right, you’ve got the rights, and the boat on port is
required to keep clear. To get out of this, they needed
to turn themselves around. By the time they had finished
the turn, they were at least 100 metres
behind the penultimate boat. We started the regatta last, at a great distance from
the nearest competitor. (CLUB NAUTICO SAN ISIDRO,
ARGENTINA) In terms of sports, I have
suffered a lot of adversity throughout my career. It was very difficult to get
there, given the precariousness of the
means that he had, because it had been difficult
for him to secure sponsors, support from the State
and so on. In Argentina we didn’t have the
possibility to travel to Europe when I first started. Being able to go to the Olympic
Games, which I was able to do in ’88,
was already so much. And I went with borrowed sails
and a borrowed boat. It was my second
international championship. Athens 2004 marked the creation
of a great team, with someone we both had been
dreaming about since ’93. We raced in different
categories in ’96 and in the 2000 Olympic Games. There was an illusion that united all in the general
nautical world, and that was that Argentina
would win a medal after so many years. Why not someday sail together and go in search of
a gold medal for our country? It looked like we were going
to have the resources, and then in 2001 came
the crisis in Argentina and we were left with no money. We thought, “Ciao.” We would be able to
compete on equal terms. And we raced in a championship. Getting a medal was, for me,
something incredible. It was a dream to win a medal. But I never found out why we
lost, because I cannot find one
mistake that would allow me to say, “Look, in this race
we failed here.” We raced some great regattas,
but we lost. I am convinced that Santi continued on in his search
for the gold medal because he knew that we were
very close. We got together for a year,
between games, and since we had such little
time and it was thought that there would be very little wind
in Beijing, we didn’t do any training
for very windy conditions. The first day was a very
difficult day. Only 15 boats compete
at the Olympic Games. That first day with Santiago
we ended in 13th place. We had a very windy day
at the Olympic Games and that meant we lost
the gold. The two bronzes, I wouldn’t say they were
anything to be scoffed at, no. But I knew we could win the
gold. (OLYMPIC GAMES. RIO DE JANEIRO.
2016) How are we going to take
advantage of the opportunities of this regatta so that we can recover
all that we have to? Can Santiago Lange,
at 54 years of age, can he come through the fleet? I stuck my head out of the boat
to look for an opportunity. The whole fleet had moved
to the left of the racecourse, and I decided to continue to
the right. Ceci looked at me and said,
“Old man, make some magic.” I replied to her, “Calm down,
baby, it’s going to be OK.” And then they began to recover. You see him crumpled over,
55 years old, racing against kids that are
23, 24, 26… “Come on, old man, fuck!” And he went on, and on, and he
reached as far as he could. We reached the first buoy
closer to ninth place. He recovered something
that seemed almost impossible. We reached the second buoy
in sixth position. It was exciting, it was… It was crazy. (CLUB NAUTICO SAN ISIDRO,
ARGENTINA) I felt that Santi’s mind-set was focused on returning to the
Olympic Games. He was reaching a very
important stage in his life, as is the possibility of sharing the Olympic experience
with his children. And he knew it, and the possibility of winning
a gold medal was still pending. I was training my children completely outside of the
Olympic arena. We called him “the sponsor”. He was our sponsor, and I think
he was the main sponsor of our campaign for two
or three years. Yago had already begun
his Olympic campaign for Rio. I suffer a lot. I see my children’s regattas
and I suffer, like any father would. I said, “No, I cannot be a
coach.” That change of direction in the
campaign was very important because he also found
his partner Cecilia to sail in Nacra. The meeting with Santi, we could say that it was
something magical, because I clearly went
to ask him for advice about the matter
of my sports career. I said, “Well, I’m going to see
Santi. “This old sea dog will have
some advice to give me.” Following that crazy
conversation, full of impulsiveness, I asked, “Why don’t you sail with me?”
but Ceci would not answer me. And I thought to myself, “This little girl who will not
answer me, “who does she think she is? “Does she think I’m too old
to sail?” When I was one, he competed
in his first Olympic Games. And before I was even a
thought, he had already attempted to
qualify for the Olympic Games. I told him, “Look,
we’ll give it a try. “I don’t know if my knees
will hold out, “or if I’m going to have the
motivation.” Out of that meeting and
my subsequent questions came Santi’s return to the
Olympics. When he announced that
he was going to race, those who knew him said,
“Wow, and what for? “You have two medals
in the mixed Tornado class.” When I am presented with a
challenge, I get passionate. The greater the challenge,
the more it motivates me. (CLUB NAUTICO SAN ISIDRO,
ARGENTINA) I have a lot of belief in young
people. With that desire, that
ambition, so eager to learn. That creates a tremendous
effervescence effect. I had never worked as a coach. At that time, if I’m not
mistaken, Santiago was 52 years old. I was 19. He was my idol. Suddenly, we found ourselves
caught up in the madness that we were going to race in
the Santander World Cup, which was the first
classification round for the Rio Olympic Games,
and we were world runners-up after having sailed together,
I don’t know, for 30 days. It was crazy. We were already in Rio,
now all that was left was for Klaus and Yago to come
to Rio. I wanted, as a family, to share the Olympic Games
together. Clearly, the classification
in Santander for the Olympic Games was key to our campaign. If we had not classified
in Santander, we were sure to have a problem because later on we were
in the middle of… we were caught up in another
problem which was bigger than qualifying for the
Olympic Games. (OLYMPIC GAMES. RIO DE JANEIRO.
2016) The Argentinians, if they can
get back into this race… Third place was already at
stake, and he knew that if he finished
third he was guaranteed the gold. The anxiety we felt going
forward. We continued to force
our way to overtake boats. Ooh, I think that could be
another penalty there. Then came the situation in
which we had dubious passing with the Austrians. – It’s a penalty.
– Yes, it’s a penalty! – Everything was very fast.
– These were critical moments. “Stop, stop!
Let’s see where we are.” That’s a penalty against the
gold medallist. And there was no time to speak, because the regatta was already
very tense. It cannot be that
you are penalised again when you have recovered that which is normally
unrecoverable. All the work we had done
was disappearing. And, well, then what happened
happened. (CLUB NAUTICO SAN ISIDRO,
ARGENTINA) The old man always took flights and we were with him at a
competition and he was sick
the entire day of training. What one feels when they are
sick is very bothersome. The relationship sometimes
became tense, because he was sick. With all the travel and time
differences and the competitions
and demands, during 2014 I got sick
all the time. “No, I’m in Valencia now,
but I’m sick. “It feels as though the planes
are making me sick. “Aah, no, I’m sick again,
with the flu. “Hey, guys, close the windows
or else I’ll get the flu.” He would go sailing again, and then lie down to rest,
to recover, but he never recovered. I started to have some tests
done. Nobody found anything. One doctor after another,
“What’s wrong with me?” Until one of them found the
lump in my lung and that’s when everything
started. He told me that he had
a lump in his lung. He said to me,
“I have lung cancer.” “This cannot be happening to
you. Don’t tell me this.” Why me? I had taken care of myself,
I was a healthy guy. I eat healthily, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink alcohol,
I play sports. And this was always hard for me
to understand. Why was this happening to me? But to be defeated, never. This was the reality
that I was living in and I had to go through it. (HOSPITAL QUIRON, BARCELONA,
SPAIN) That lump needed surgery. I always say that nobody should be taken into surgery
forcefully, but in this case, waiting would
have proven fatal. “Will I recover to make it
to the Olympics? “I will have surgery, but I
want to go to the Olympics.” We said, “With so many months
to go, “and because you will
have the surgery today, “the logical thing is that you “will be ready in time for the
Olympics. “Not with the same lung
capacity, “because we are going to remove
a piece of lung.” It’s surgery that we can only
perform on three out of every ten
patients that have a lung tumour. It was a very complicated
procedure. You didn’t know whether he is
going to live or not, the old one over there. And nothing, to see his face… I remember that he grabbed my
finger and said to me, “Well, see you.” And you don’t know whether you
will see him again or not. Honestly, there was something
telling me that everything was going
to be OK and the family spirit
was one of… there was a spirit of
“let’s get over this”. The relationship with my
children is the most important
thing in my life. Much more than sports. I had a nice talk to Yago
and they all said to me, “Dad, I want to go,
I want to be there with you. “To me, the most important
thing is to be there with you.” We did a number of crazy
things. Trying to classify for the
Olympics, while he was getting
surgery. They had a great challenge,
a big dream, which was to be able to
participate in the Games, and I said to them, “No, stay
there. “Calm down, I’m going to
be all right.” Fortunately, I don’t have to
tell you the story about my father dying while he was trying to go to
the Olympics. From the first videos that I
received, there is one where he is
walking, holding the bag that was
connected to his machines for medication, and these were the first steps
he took, with Theo. OK, we’re here with the old man
here, walking like a champion. Then he made a move as though he was pretending to play
squash, which is the one thing
we all like, and it was very impressive
to see the old man there… the old man walking like that, and as they had made some
incisions on his throat, he wasn’t able to talk. Then, it was,
“Hello, Borja, how are you?” Good morning, puppies. Here waiting for Edu to go
home. This is the last visit to the
hospital. A tremendous view. This is the armchair that saved
me on a couple of nights. The button to call the nurses. The nurses would answer me
through here, “Yes?” The bathroom button is so stiff
that I couldn’t press it. But hey, now… ..I can press it without
a problem. That’s why I’m being
discharged. So I think that today
we should go to Cabrera. I love you, champ. It is very important to me
that you are here with me. Hey, boss. Let’s go, Theo. Just as to me the most
important thing that Yago and Klaus could do
at that moment was to prepare for their big
dream, it was nice to know
that Theo and Borja were there, that for them the most important thing was to
accompany me at such a special time. (CABRERA DE MAR, SPAIN) When sailing, and more so in a
Nacra, a ship that really flies, respiratory capacity is very
important. He told me, “I can’t breathe.” Suddenly, in the middle of
closing haul, I felt like I didn’t have
enough air. Let’s remember that where there
were two lung lobes, now only one remains. That one remaining lower lobe has to occupy the rest of the
haemothorax. I had so little strength
that couldn’t turn the boat. We just sailed to one side. The nine months
from the surgery to Rio required the greatest effort
in my entire sports career by far. (MEDAL RACE. MANOEUVRE PENALTY) Yes, yes. This is it. This is the losing of a gold
medal for Argentina! I saw how much ground he had to
recover after the penalty he was given. And I thought that that was it. Anyone would have lost
the chance of a medal, not only the gold one. The mistake has already been
made, and then you must fix it. ..and put that down to that
infringement at the top mark. Suddenly, we saw that the globe
went down, that it had made a 360-degree
turn… We really thought that it
was very difficult. You don’t get excited,
because it’s impossible. You have already learned that you are in the middle of
the sea, and then a storm comes, and you
can’t say, “Well, I’m getting out here.” Santi never threw in the towel,
he never gave up. Never. (CABRERA DE MAR, SPAIN) Santi started cycling and,
of course, he got tired. There beside me, pedalling with
a lot of enthusiasm? The support of my friends,
of my children, of my family, they were great supports
in being able to overcome this and look ahead
with optimism and confidence. At this very table, Ceci said, “We have to go to live in Rio, “we can’t afford to lose
even a day.” There was no time for anything
but the Olympic Games. It was very arduous. The physical preparation
we had to do was very arduous and the number of them
that we had to navigate, but we could carry on thanks to
our mental preparation. You can be sailing,
in the middle of the sea, and can be doing yoga because you are connected to
yourself, with what you are doing. You are enjoying
what you are doing, and you are doing what you want
to do, that is yoga. It is part of our work method. One of the most important tools
that we use is visualisation. If I think I’m going to win, and I feel confident
that I am going to win, the body begins to create
neural connections so that when the time comes it is going to start acting in
that way. When we visualised,
we imagined what we wanted. We were the ones who trained
the most. We were the ones that spent
the most time in that place, we did not take breaks. By April, we had already won
two regattas. Then we could see
that we were the fastest. The guys were going home
and we stayed on in Rio, training every day. My dream was to get
to the Olympic Games with the possibility of winning
a medal. I felt invincible, I felt like I was there
operating at 200%. (OLYMPIC GAMES, RIO DE JANEIRO,
2016) When we were at the ceremony
in Rio de Janeiro, he told us, “Guys, maybe we’ll never walk
in an Olympics parade “together again. ” What I felt that night,
sentimentally and emotionally, was as big as having won
a medal. (MEDAL RACE. ENDING
CLOSE-HAULED) Two unforced errors by
Argentina! Wow! After the second penalty
in the men’s final regatta, at that moment of tension where it seemed as though we
had lost the medal, and Cole and I were almost
crying, there was a moment when
Cole touched me on the back and made me turn. Dani was there with his eyes
closed and smiling. And I began to visualise, and I started to see them… ..reaching the finish line. And I saw them with their arms
raised, I saw them winning. I could see them winning and I felt that they were
going to win. It was a moment of relaxation and the three of us gave
each other permission to laugh because the reality was that it
was totally out of our hands. What you believe, you can create. It could be Argentina, still,
for gold. It could be! I started to see the arrivals
and I did not see Argentina. I start to see flags from other
countries and I wondered,
“What’s going on here?” As it was so clear to me that
what guaranteed us the gold was finishing in the top three.
And as we were guaranteed a medal if we finished in the
first five, when I arrived to the finish
line, and as we were sixth, I thought we had lost
all chance of a medal. Argentina come over the line! I wanted to know the final
positions. People were saying everything. One said that I had not
won a medal, another that I had the bronze,
another didn’t know. I thought Australia had won the
regatta, and, with the points we had,
I thought we were in second. But, luckily, I was wrong. I confused the Australian flag
with New Zealand’s. The New Zealanders had won the
race and with this result,
we had won the gold. It is fascinating. It’s beautiful to have won a
gold medal. It’s very beautiful to have
fulfilled a dream after so much work, so many experiences,
so much effort. But the most important thing
is the journey. That person who, as a kid,
began to dedicate himself to his passion. Since the first Argentine
championship that I won, the Optimist,
which I won the last year I would be able to compete
in the category, until what happened with the
gold, somehow, it was like closing
the circle of a life dedicated to a passion. The Medal Race should remain
a testimony to what can be achieved and about not giving up. The cancer made him win
the medal. I once said, “We had the bad luck
to have had to go through “this situation of adversity.” And when I finished the
sentence I said, “Maybe it was not bad luck.” Maybe all that had to happen so that lots of other nice
things could happen to us, among them, winning the gold
medal. It was worth it. The Medal Race encapsulates in 20 minutes all that my life
has been about. Adversities,
and getting up and going on.

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  1. I had them as my favourites to win the gold, and I was so happy when they finally won. Congrats Argentina

  2. Ejemplo como padre, hombre, ser humano, deportista……inspiracion y respeto. Hace muchos anios deje el pais y al volver la vista atras veo a este hombre como un ejemplo para los argentinos confundidos con falsos valores. Mis mayores respetos y muchas felicidades para Santiago y su familia. Y por supuesto par ella tambien!!!! Un gran saludo desde Maui, Hawaii.

  3. Hi olympic i want to know if you are going to upload the official film of the 1952,1960,1972,1980,1984,1988 olympic summer games thanks

  4. BEAUTIFUL.WONDERFUL, AWESOME.THIS LIFE STORY MUST BE PUT INTO A " PAY TO SEE MOVIE." I DON'T GO TO MOVIES, BUT THIS MOVIE I WOULD BE WILLING TO PAY TOP PRICE. SO INSPIRING. I NEEDED IT. THANK YOU !.

  5. Great story!
    I admit I skimmed the "human interest" part to watch what racing there was, but I find it odd that I didn't see any comparison to Paul Elvstrom, the greatest Olympic sailor of all time. Elvstrom, having retired from the Olympics for many years, came back and raced cats with his daughter. But I don't think Paul won the gold.

  6. You know, my father also got cancer, he is a doctor. Do exercise everyday, don't drink, eat healthy. Cancer can happen to everyone, and the hardest hit is when you are heath, don't drink, don't smoke, eat healthy, do exercise then suddenly you are being told you have a cancer.

  7. What an incredible story. This guy is a champ after all. I wish him all the best for tokyo 2020. (Only if he competes and i'm sure he will)!☺

  8. no clue why I'm watching this cause I didn't even know sailing was an Olympic sport but okay! inspiring!

  9. LMAOOOO I Love Argentinians. This lad literally goes, You see him old and wrinkled the old man. It sounds so rude, but they love him so much. It's like they are insulting their dad but at the same time lad is crying over the memory of seeing his father go in for lung surgery.

  10. ojalá Santiago fuera mucho más conocido a nivel popular. Todo bien con las figuras del futbol y los eventuales triunfos del tenis, el boxeo, el basquet o el rugby, pero esta historia daba para ser el suceso del año! Deberían sacar la película YA, sería un éxito barbaro.

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