A Mexico City firefighter won a silver medal on the first day of competition at the seventh edition of the Latin American Police and Firefighters’ Games by climbing 50 flights of stairs in just 11 minutes and 51 seconds.
Kitted out in his full firefighter’s uniform, 24-year-old Martín Arenas Valencia was one of two firemen to reach the top floor of the BBVA Tower on Mexico City’s Reforma avenue in a time that beat the previous record of 12 minutes and 20 seconds.
The gold medal was won by César Augusto Sánchez, who completed Sunday’s vertical race in 11 minutes and 19 seconds.
Arenas, a fireman at the Tacuba station in Mexico City, finished in front of competitors from countries including Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Brazil.
His impressive performance wasn’t the culmination of a long period of specific training to ascend the skyscraper’s 1,300 stairs: one of his colleagues roped him into participating just six days before Sunday’s race.
“He didn’t know about the event, another colleague recommended him for it and the guy threw himself into it. He’s brave like all firefighters and police,” said Remigio Martínez, a fireman who met Arenas on the 50th floor at the end of the race.
The silver medal winner described the ascent to the top of the tower as “cabrón,” or very difficult.
“I practiced two days ago and that helped me but with the pressure [of the race] and all the equipment . . . it became more complicated,” Arenas said.
“. . . All firefighters are brave, true warriors. We work with what we have, going up and down stairs . . . [there are] complicated situations every day,” he added.
Many of the foreign firefighters who took part in the race said that Mexico City’s altitude (it is 2,250 meters above sea level) made climbing the 50 floors even more challenging.
“. . . We train, we practice but in the end the altitude kills you, it suffocates you,” said a Colombian firefighter identified only as Jairo.
La acrobacia en motocicleta de la policía de tránsito de la Ciudad de México es una actividad que tiene más de 50 años. Fue recuperada en la película #ATodaMaquina con Pedro Infante y Luis Agular. Hoy nos hicieron una exhibición. Por primera vez participaron mujeres 👮♀️ 👩🏼✈️ 🏍 pic.twitter.com/2spP9XP271
— Claudia Sheinbaum (@Claudiashein) November 17, 2019
“. . . Your legs don’t respond and you feel like your lungs can’t take in air. Where the battle really begins is on the 45th floor.”
The stair climbing race is one of 26 sports in which 1,500 firefighters and police from 29 countries are participating in this week’s Latin American games.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum inaugurated the event at a ceremony in the capital’s central square, the zócalo, on Sunday.
“The security secretary [Omar García Harfuch] has said several times at morning security cabinet meetings that a fundamental part of getting citizens to believe in our police is for the police themselves to increase their pride . . .” she said.
“Being part of these games means a lot to them and they’ll have the complete support of the government. It’s about raising the image of the city police, that’s very important for us and obviously very important for citizens as well.”
Police Chief García said it filled him with pride to welcome the participants, among whom are firefighters and police from across Latin America as well as the United States, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, France, the Bahamas and India.
He described the athletes as “tireless heroes” and said that strength, courage and determination will be among the qualities on display during the seven days of competition.
The male and female competitors will vie for medals in sports including boxing, cycling, judo, tennis, basketball, swimming, chess and arm wrestling at five venues across Mexico City. The games conclude on Saturday.