In the backyard of his house, at the age of five, Gustavo Gómez picked up a table tennis paddle for the first time. At that moment, he couldn’t imagine it, but that object would shape his future. Today, at the age of 29, the athlete is a national representative in this discipline, and every year he achieves new accomplishments and joys thanks to this passion. Currently, his focus is on his next major challenge: representing Chile during the upcoming Santiago 2023 Pan American Games.
“My father taught me how to play. He was among the best in Chile, was a coach for the Chilean national team, and belonged to the Talca Table Tennis Association. Since I was very young, I became involved in the sport because I wanted to be part of his world,” recalls Gustavo. That’s how he inherited the passion for this discipline and started paving his own path from a young age.
Before turning 13, Gustavo traveled to Paraguay to play for the first time as a member of the Chilean national team. He won four gold medals. “At that moment, I thought, ‘Maybe I really have talent for this,'” the table tennis player recounts. That achievement convinced him that he wanted to take his sports career seriously, and at the age of 15, he made the decision to leave his family and friends in Talca to train professionally in Santiago.
“Thanks to the support of my family, I managed to finish my studies successfully, and at the age of 18, I started playing table tennis in foreign leagues. I’ve been in Spain, the Czech Republic, Portugal, France, and currently, I’m playing in the second Bundesliga in Germany, which is one of the strongest leagues in Europe,” Gustavo shares. Moreover, throughout that time, he has represented Chile as a national team member, achieving notable results.
Although he has had numerous achievements in his career, there have also been difficulties. “I’m very clear about this: I may have setbacks, but I always have to get back up. I’m convinced that defeats are learning experiences, and that’s how victories are achieved,” emphasizes Gustavo.
Like many other athletes, the pandemic has been one of the challenges he had to overcome in recent years. Mobility restrictions and cancellations of sports events forced the athlete to train in the living room of his house, adapting the space as much as possible.
Another challenge during his career has been the high cost that a high-performance athlete faces in developing their sports plan, especially when participating in international tournaments. In this context, in November 2022, the Luksic Foundation signed a collaboration agreement with the Chilean Olympic Committee to support and finance the sports plans of 16 Chilean athletes, including Gustavo Gómez.
“We believe in sports as a tool to generate positive changes in society,” stated Isabella Luksic, CEO of the Luksic Foundation. “That’s why through our Sports department, we support and promote sports at various levels. This alliance with COCH has allowed us to learn about the stories of talented athletes who, like Gustavo Gómez, are a source of pride for our country,” she added.
During the past few months, Gustavo has divided his time between Chile and abroad. When he is in the country, he dedicates himself to training at the National Olympic Training Center, where he and other high-performance athletes prepare together for the major event in October: the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games. “I have participated in two previous Pan American Games, and the truth is that the medal has been elusive. But I know we have the ability; it’s just that bad luck has been against us. These games are our opportunity, and I would love to bring home a gold medal in my country,” the tennis player asserts.
Over two decades dedicated to sports have provided the young tennis player with several lessons. Gustavo recommends to the new generations, “Take advantage of sports. Not only for the physical activity aspect. Sports give you the opportunity to make friends, mature, develop your personality, become more sociable, and even learn from other cultures and languages. That’s why, if you have the opportunity to practice a sport, go for it.”