by Kabir Nagpal
A name which illustrates near-perfect alliteration, Marcos Madrid from Puebla has gone through quite a decade of adaptation and skill-learning.
Laying the foundation
Starting quite young for a Latin American player, at the age of nine, his interest in table tennis was profound. A strong wish to see the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, his mind was made up where he wanted to see himself in the future.
The foundations of his play and strong topspin backhands come deep from practising his trade when it was highly unlikely for anyone else to be playing that way in Mexico. Speaking to Tokyo 2020, Madrid recounts:
“In my family we have always been very athletic. We used to go to a club where we could play football, basketball or tennis. I also did gymnastics. One day, I started playing ping pong. Someone saw me play there and suggested to me to join a club. I started going, I liked it and the evolution was fast.” Marcos Madrid
The evolution he speaks about is visible in the speed of his play today, often baffling his opponents. He started to showcase that at Parque Espana, playing for nearly five years at the club. Things took a step in the right direction at the age of 14 for Madrid, when he stumbled across a rare opportunity:
“I met a Chinese coach who was working in Mexico. When he finished his contract and was returning to his country, he told me that he believed in my potential and suggested that I accompany him to start this project. It was not an easy decision, especially for my mum but I moved there.” Marcos Madrid
Thus his training in the Chinese way began. Madrid would find this suited his natural style and fondness for the ‘evolution’ of play, something his coaches started noticing as they gave him sterner tests every time. Overall, he spent a year in Nanjing and Shanghai, and then returned home to Mexico with a bag full of experiences and – more importantly – new tricks up his sleeve.
“Being able to train in a Chinese club with great players, just seeing them playing all the time, how they invest their time and energy, it was a very good experience. My technique changed – I acquired a good foundation and I became a faster and stronger player.” Marcos Madrid
Results of hard work
Quickly labelled as the ‘next generation’ of Mexico’s table tennis, as well as the hope for a nation long wishing for strong performances at the Olympic Games, Madrid’s goals have been very much aligned with that of his country.
In 2008 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, at the Latin American Qualification tournament, Madrid lost the match for the last place available in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, losing out to the late Dexter St Louis of Trinidad and Tobago. The experience, instead of putting him down, shaped his desire further.
Again four years later in Rio de Janeiro in the same tournament, he suffered exactly the same fate. He lost to Brazil’s Hugo Hoyama and thus did not make London 2012 Olympic Games.
At last for the third time, he shone through. In 2016, making a singularly strong statement of intent, he beat Brazilian Gustavo Tsuboi in Santo Domingo at the same tournament to secure his Rio 2016 place.
“It was very special because my wait was so long after previous attempts to make it for Beijing and London. But, finally, my dream was fulfilled” Marcos Madrid
Chasing the Olympic dream
During this previous decade, major life decisions had come as a frequent occurrence for Madrid. In 2011, he decided to move to France and join a professional side to cater to his biggest dream – an Olympic Games medal.
“In Mexico, there are no professional leagues for my sport, so I had to move to Europe in order to compete. It helps me to get much stronger, playing in a league that has that level – you have to know how to take advantage of it.” Marcos Madrid
Since 2012, he has played for Caen and is now looking for his next destination.
The mixed version of a Chinese style with European training has reaped rewards as he secured a bronze medal place at the 2017 Pan American Championships and two gold medals at the 2019 Central American Championship held in Guatemala.
Of course, with the current climate, his dreams are slightly foggy with the delayed Olympic Games in 2021. However, that has not deterred him from preparing physically and mentally for the one after the next – which just happens to be near his new home in Paris, 2024.
“After Tokyo, I had planned to slow down a bit, at least for six months, because I have been very busy, with many trips and international competitions. I wanted to take a little time for myself, my partner and my family. I think it would be a good way to, perhaps, put an end to my sports career and my time in Europe.” Marcos Madrid