After nearly two decades of trying, Costa Rican athlete Laurens Molina reached his mountaintop by winning the wheelchair division of Sunday’s Los Angeles Marathon in the United States.
Molina’s time of 1 hour 37 minutes and 21 seconds produces the Costa Rican’s best ever result at the annual marathon after consecutive top-three finishes in 2015 and 2016. The wheelchair-bound athlete has been competing in the Los Angeles Marathon since 1999, coming in at 44th in that first try.
Following the five-kilometer mark, Molina led the entire way in a dominating performance. Molina told the Costa Rican Olympic Committee that he felt confident after getting off to a fast start and then taking over the race lead around the sixth kilometer.
“That start was really good and I knew I had enough strength and coming on the six-kilometer mark I knew I could take advantage of a small slope there to overtake my opponent,” he said. “I know every kilometer of this marathon and after that point I really started to take off.”
— Chris Schauble (@ChrisKTLA) March 19, 2017
Molina finished the 42-kilometer (26-mile) race with a fairly comfortable lead, as his next closest competitor finished a full three minutes behind the Costa Rican.
Fellow Tico José Jiménez finished fourth in the wheelchair race with a time of 1 hour 46 minutes 55 seconds.
In 2014, Costa Rica created the Paralympic Federation to help support athletes like Molina and Jiménez in their quest to compete in international competitions.
Molina was born with bilateral above-knee congenital limb loss, which left him without leg bones beyond his knees. He has previously competed in the Paralympic Games and the Pan American Games as a wheelchair racer.
“Work hard for what you want, never stop dreaming even if the odds aren’t in your favor,” Molina wrote in Spanish on his Facebook page Sunday morning following his first place finish. “Victory comes to those who never stop believing that they could always achieve it.”