Oscar Pitillas reflects on career as Olympic hurdler

Everyone has their idols. The people they look up to. The ones they want to emulate. The ones they want to succeed like.

It could be an athlete, a musician, a parent. Anyone, really.

For Oscar Pitillas, it was Edwin Moses.

“When I was a kid I dreamed of being an Olympian,” said Pitillas, the New York City FC Physical Training Coach. “I was inspired by Edwin Moses. I dreamed of being like him.”

The Spanish Pitillas was in awe of Moses, an American. Moses won gold medals in the 400 meter hurdles in the 1976 and 1984 Olympics. Between September 1977 and June 1987, he won 122 consecutive races.

Pitillas said he was never a typical student because he had always been an athlete. His goal was to emulate the person he idolized.

“Leading up until the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona all I did was train,” said Pitillas, who is also a licensed physical therapist. “Train, rest, train, rest. Then at the Olympic Games I injured myself and that’s when I realized I couldn’t invest my entire life in one thing and began to study.”

Pitillas attended INEF in Madrid to study athletic training and development.

Despite the setback in ’92, he was able to continue his track career. Pitillas represented Spain in the 400 meter hurdles at the 1995 IAAF World Championships in Sweden. A year later, he qualified for the Olympics. Pitillas traveled to the United States for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Pitillas said it wasn’t until after his career that he was able to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

“You really enjoy it once you’re done with it because when you’re there it’s your job and the level of responsibility is very high and you have to give it your best,” he said.

After hanging up his running shoes as a professional, Pitillas took his work ethic and athletic background to his career as a trainer. He was the physical training coach at Atlético Madrid from 2003-14. Atlético won La Liga in 2014.

Pitillas joined the New York City FC staff in December 2014 and worked closely with preparing David Villa, the Club’s first-ever signing, for the inaugural season.

Coincidentally, the duo worked together at Atlético.

Despite qualifying for the Olympics and representing his country, Pitillas never achieved the same success as Moses did. But he still remains active in the world of sports as a vital member of New York City FC’s training staff.

“If someone dropped me in the middle of the Olympic Games at a young age I’d freak out, but when it becomes your profession you prepare for it and you see the hard work and challenges coming,” Pitillas said. “For me as an athlete it was equally as difficult to get to the Olympic Games as it was to get to a European championship or a world championship. You don’t approach it as something that happens suddenly; you work towards it and you prepare for it. It takes a lot of assuming responsibility to go to the Olympic Games.

“Needless to say, I never became like Edwin Moses.”

NOTE: This story first appeared on NYCFC.com

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