On this day on December 5,1964, American swimmer Pedro Pablo Morales Jr., Olympic gold medalist, world champion, and former world record-holder was born in Chicago.
Morales set the world record in fort 100-meere butterfly in the Olympic Trials for the 1984 Games and was favored to win four gold medals in Los Angeles, but could only settle for one in the relay and a pair of silver medals.
Tragedy spelled Morales’ early Olympic career when he was 19 year old. A solid pick to swim triumphantly in both the 100 and 200 butterfly in Los Angeles Games, Morale failed miserably ending up second to record-setting Michael Gross of West Germany in the century fly and a dismal fourth the 200.
Although he salvaged another silver in the 200 individual medley and a gold a member of the 400-medley relay, Morales’ performance was way below expectation.
Morales tried to bounce back four years later in the Olympic Trial for the 1988 Seoul Summer Games, but bad luck continued hounding him as he failed to even make it to the U.S. team’s trip to South Korea.
Disappointed no end, he decided to quit the sport he loved, he decided to enroll for a law degree at the Cornell Law School in New York instead. “I was terribly disappointed,” Morales recalled later after Seoul. “I ate, dreamt and slept swimming I believed winning in Barcelona would be the natural conclusion to my swimming career.”
While pursuing to be a lawyer, Morales’ Mom, Blanca, contacted cancer in what led him to try to comeback to swimming. “After my Mom died, I made my decision. I told the people at law school that I was taking a year off and started to train for Barcelona.”
On March 2, 1992, six months after hitting the comeback trail, Morales made it to the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis with his daughter and father, Pedro Pablo Morales Sr.. watching in the stands. “I asked my daughter (before the race) whether she had brought a picture of Mom,” he related. “She took it out of her purse and handed it to me.“
“I held it up during the entire race (hoping) that she would be watching,” he said. He beat all aspirants and after eight years, he had again made it to the Olympic[c team. And as a team captain at that!
On July 27, 1992, art the Barcelona Olympic Stadium, eight finalists prepared for the start of the 100-mer butterfly, one of the most eagerly awaited events at the pool – the meeting between defending Olympic champion Anthony Nesty of Surinam and 27-year-ol Morales.
It was Nesty who won in Seoul. Morales held the record in the event for more than six years. “For years I had been waiting for this moment,” he said before the memorable moment. “Being at the starting line in the Olympic final with the world champion Anthony Nesty next to me. And finally, it happened.”
Like in the Olympic Trials, Morales started like a house on fire, “My plan was to establish an early lead,” he told everyone at the start. “Nety as an incredible finish and I wanted to have enough lead to hold him off.”
At the 75-meter mark, Morales still led and felt Nesthy, in fourth, had started his famous final kick. “ I feel Nesty coming on,” Morales related. “”On the other side of me was Rafael Szukala of Poland, who was also making a charge.
“I concentrated on the wall and as I got closer, I just stretched my arms out to the wall. I looked at the scoreboard and my name was there first,” he exclaimed. Morales had bagged the gold medal followed by Szukala in second and Nesty in third.
“There was a lot of emotion for me on the victory platform.” Moreles disclosed later. “Hearing the national anthem, my thoughts turned to my mother, we had shared so much together when I was growing up …. watching the Olympic Games on television together.
“She always gave me a nod when I told her one day, I would win an Olympic gold medal, and now that my time had finally come …. And she couldn’t be there in person …. Nevertheless, I felt that she was smiling with approval from above,” he surmised.
Morale, now 53, is currently the head women’s swimming and diving coaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.