EMU athlete faces hurdles
Sophomore Lydia Gomez-Diaz is a hammer and weight thrower for the Eastern Michigan University track and field team.
She comes to EMU from Tarragona, Spain, which is an hour northeast of Barcelona.
Gomez-Diaz, 21, got her start in track and field at the age of 7 with the help of her father, Manuel Gomez, who coaches on a national level in Spain.
It wasn’t until the age of 16 when Gomez-Diaz decided to become a hammer thrower.
Gomez-Diaz attended IES Collblanc High School.
After graduating, she moved to the United States and accepted a scholarship to EMU. She also pursued the University of Memphis and the University of Texas but was rejected because those schools required a higher level of English.
“All I could think about is getting out of Spain and try to get my education in another country,” Gomez- Diaz said. “Eastern Michigan University gave me the opportunity to come to the States even though my English was not very good.”
One big adjustment Gomez-Diaz made from Spain to the United States was to learn how to speak fluent English.
“I knew the basics of the language, but it was very difficult to communicate to the coaches initially,” Gomez-Diaz said. “But it has gotten better over time.”
Another adjustment was having to start from scratch in terms of making new friends.
“I had to start making new friends even though I did not know how to communicate with them,” she said. “I did not know how the American culture worked at the time.”
The transition was so difficult, Gomez-Diaz even contemplated giving up and going back to Spain.
“I realized that I needed to start talking to people and in the process I began to enjoy being in America,” Gomez-Diaz said.
Currently, Gomez-Diaz’s major is physical education and her minor is English as a second language for international students.
If she had to pick a favorite class it would be her kinesiology class.
“The way professor Tony Moreno teaches the class made it enjoyable to learn,” she said.
Once Gomez-Diaz graduates from EMU, she wants to become an elementary school teacher.
“It is perfect for me because I work with kids in summer camps on campus,” she said.
Gomez-Diaz has a younger sister, Nuria, who is two years younger.
“She [Nuria] is my best friend,” Gomez-Diaz said. “We talk every single day despite the six-hour time difference to make sure that we are OK. Nuria even texted me recently and said that it is time to come home, and when I see that, it reminds me of how far I am away from everyone.”
Gomez-Diaz plans on going back to her home country after the track and field season wraps up in the next two weeks.
Her favorite food to eat is paella, which is a popular dish in Spain.
“I miss it [paella] so much and I even told my mother to make it the first day I get back home,” she said.
When there’s some downtime between school and track, she likes to kick back and watch her favorite movie, “The Notebook.”
Her favorite genre of music is flamenco, which is a combination of song and dance.
The athlete she most looks up to is Spanish hammer thrower Berta Castells.
“I have followed her [Castells] since I was a kid and she is great at what she does,” Gomez-Diaz said.
She considers her father a strong influence when it comes to pushing her to being the best athlete possible.
“He was not a great athlete himself but has been able to take athletes to the Olympics given that he never went to high school,” Gomez-Diaz said. “It is great to see how far he has gotten considering his parents never wanted him to study but instead to go to work.”
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @EasternEchoGeno.