In 2000, Soraya Jimenez became a national hero after winning a gold medal for weightlifting in Sydney. She was the first woman from Mexico to bring home the gold medal. It has now been confirmed that she has died.
Jimenez was only 35 years old.
Reuters reports that Jimenez died of a heart attack but notes that her health had been deteriorating for some time.
The weightlifting champion retired shortly after the 2004 Olympic Games and had become a sports commentator with Televisa.
“Mexican weightlifter Soraya Jimenez, a gold medalist at the Sydney games in 2000, died at age 35 on Thursday from a heart attack, Mexico's Olympic Committee said,” Reuters reports.
“Jimenez, who was battling various health problems and had just one lung, became a national hero as Mexico's first woman to win an Olympic gold medal,” adds the same media outlet.
Her decision to retire shortly after the 2004 Games surprised her loyal supporters but, as she explained in an interview in 2010, she had no other choice because of her health.
Jimenez had a weakened immune system “after contracting the flu several times,” but also serious issues with her left knee, for which she’d already gone under the knife no less than 14 times.
“Jimenez won her gold medal in Sydney in the women's 58 kg [127.8 pounds] weightlifting category after lifting a total of 225.5 kilograms [497 pounds],” Reuters says.
Breaking on the sports scene when she was just 11, Jimenez’s career was impressive though not entirely free of scandal, albeit the negative attention proved unmerited.
In 2002, shortly after her Olympic win, she was accused of doping but she was later exonerated.
Only one other woman has managed to bring the gold medal to Mexico: Maria Espinoza won gold in taekwondo in 2008.