The Ecuadorian swimmer competed in the 10-kilometer open water race at Santiago 2023 for the last time in his career.

With emotion and evident sadness, Esteban Jose Enderica Salgado, a 33-year-old from Ecuador swimmer who specializes in long-distance events, ended his last 10-kilometer open water race at Santiago 2023 Pan American Games. Born in Cuenca, the athlete couldn’t hold back tears as he analyzed his performance in the race, which was held at Laguna Los Morros in San Bernardo. Enderica was considered a favorite for the podium but finished in sixth place.

“It’s very sad not to take home that medal, not to step onto the podium. In Toronto, I won a bronze medal, and four years ago, I won the gold medal. We came here to defend that gold medal, to step onto the podium again, to bring some joy to our country. There’s no doubt that the effort was there,” said Enderica.

The race was decided in the final lap, with the top eight swimmers battling for the lead. Of these, three secured medals: American Brennan Gravley (1:50:23.4), Argentine Ivo Cassini (1:50:23.6), and Mexican Paulo Strelkhe (1:50:23.8). Enderica, who finished in sixth place with a time of 1 hour, 50 minutes, and 39.3 seconds, couldn’t hold back the tears in what could be his last Pan American Games race.

“We knew perfectly well that it would be a very close race, that the leading group wouldn’t break away. Unfortunately, in the final lap, we lost the opportunity to distance ourselves from that group, and I didn’t have the final sprint to catch up. Together with David (Farinango), we had been protecting each other throughout the race, trying to break away from that group, but when you have more than 9 kilometers behind you, it gets harder in the final meters,” Enderica explained.

The swimmer from Cuenca has had a distinguished career, competing in the most prestigious championships. He participated in four Pan American Games: Guadalajara 2011, Toronto 2015 (where he won a bronze in the 10-kilometer freestyle), Lima 2019 (where he won gold), and Santiago 2023. He also represented Ecuador at two Olympic Games: London 2012 and Rio 2016, competing in the 1,500 meters freestyle and open water events. He was the only representative of his country in these disciplines.

“It’s very difficult to plan for four more years. I’m 34 years old, and these are my fourth Pan American Games. I don’t say this because of my age but because there are many Ecuadorian swimmers with the ability to represent the country in the best way. In four more years, I don’t see myself in open water, but I do see myself continuing in sports. So, it could be said that these are my last Pan American Games,” said the athlete.

Despite the swimmer’s evident sadness, Enderica bids farewell to his last major continental tournament in the same place where he began competing internationally.

“I’ve been to Santiago, Chile, since 2006, at a South American pool championship. I also came in 2014 to the South American Games held here in Santiago, where I won a gold medal. So, Chile has given me a good memory, not only for what it is but for what it has given me,” Enderica recounted.

The goals for Ecuador’s athlete remain focused on the next Olympic event, which would be his third. He hopes to compete again in his specialty, the 10-kilometer open water event.

“I think Doha will be more important because it’s the Olympic qualification. So, we will prepare for that championship. It will be very tough because only the top 13 swimmers qualify. I hope to be present at my third Olympic Games, God willing, in Paris 2024,” Enderica concluded.

Written by Alfredo Albornoz