NNU senior Monica Garcia-Espino recently had the experience of a lifetime when she returned to her hometown in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, for two weeks in October to play basketball with the Mexican national women’s basketball team in the Pan American Games. Held every four years, the Pan Am Games are the world’s second largest multisport event, next to the Olympics.
“Playing for the Mexican team was the most challenging team I have ever been on,” Monica said. “But playing in front of my friends and family was worth all the sacrifices I made to be there.”
Garcia-Espino was one of about 6,000 athletes from 42 nations participating in 36 sports during the 2011 games. Her Mexican national team competed in the championship game against Puerto Rico and received the silver medal.
Garcia-Espino said that the experience was particularly meaningful since this year’s games were held in her hometown, and many of her friends and family were able to see her play.
“The experience was life-changing for me,” said Garcia-Espino. “It helped me grow as a person and as a player; having my family at the tournament helped me have the best international tournament I’ve ever had. At the end of each game, I ran to give them a hug.”
As starting point guard for the team, Garcia-Espino experienced the intensity of the Pan Am Games as they played five games in five days. She said she really appreciated having her NNU coaches, friends and mentors cheer her on back in the U.S.A. Her stateside fans were able to watch one of the games televised on ESPN when the Mexican team played the U.S. team, and they were able to watch her other games on the Internet.
“It meant a lot to me to have their support because they knew how much it meant to me to play in my hometown and in front of my family. I had my hard times, and they were always there for me when I needed to talk,” she said.
“Playing for the Mexican team was the most challenging team I have ever been on,” Garcia-Espino said. “But playing in front of my friends and family was worth all the sacrifices I made to be there.”
Garcia-Espino’s journey to a silver medal in the Pan Am Games began 15 years ago when she first started playing basketball. Her skills on the basketball court have given her the opportunity to play on many different teams, including a junior college team in California, the NNU women’s basketball team and the Mexican national team.
Garcia-Espino hopes to participate in the Pan Am Games again in 2015 in Brazil. In the meantime, she will be busy completing her final year at NNU, earning a degree in computer science.