An athlete never says never till it is over. But keeping faith can be tough as well if the journey has been arduous like Leonel Martinez on the trap range.
Since he made his maiden Olympic appearance at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, it was a prolonged run in the wilderness for the towering Venezuelan.
The tag of an Olympian had been got, but Leonel, who has been shooting in international competitions since 1983, returned empty-handed from America, finishing 41st in men’s trap.
From then to now, Leonel clocked miles and competitions across numerous Pan American Games, Continental American Championships, World Cups and World Championships, but that first medal, which finds a pride of place in an athlete cabinet, eluded him.
The closest Leonel came to a medal was an eighth spot at the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, and it was perhaps destined that Leonel defining moment came at this stage.
October 31 will remain etched in memory forever as Leonel ended the 42-year wait for a podium with silver, the accompanying Olympic quota made the moment sweeter, at the Pan American Games at Santiago, Chile.
It could well have been gold but Leonel was pipped to gold by Jean Pierre Cardenas Brol, representing the Independent Athletes Team, by a point with a score of 43. Leonel (42) was followed by another Independent Athlete, Herbert Brol, with a score of 30.
In qualification, Leonel shot series of 23, 46 and 69 to qualify for the final at the fifth position. The years of waiting for a medal could not weigh down his zest, and Leonel kept a cool head for that historic silver.
Leonel is the perfect fit to the saying life begins at 60. No sooner the silver came his away, the Venezuelan Olympic Committee announced that he would be part of the trap team bound for Paris.
When Leonel takes aim at the Olympic trap range a couple of months from now, he will enter the history books as the only the second athlete behind Japan Hiroshi Hoketsu with a wait for a second Olympic appearance that has lasted 40 years and more. Hoketsu, a dressage rider, first featured at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and then Beijing 2008 at age 67 in a wait that lasted 44 years.
The monkey of a medal-less run off the back, Leonel will take aim in Paris with a refreshed outlook, and who knows, an Olympic medal could be up next for the late bloomer.