Alvaro Maldonado is willing to dive into the ocean next year and swim 17 miles. And he’s going to do it for Nico, the son of one of his teammates. That teammate doesn’t even know it yet, either. She’ll find out when she reads this story and sees the accompanying video.
From the beginning, Alvaro has swum for other people. “I wanted to spend more time with my father, so when my schedule allowed, I would go to the pool with him so we could do something together,” he says. Then he started swimming for certain causes and to hang out with his friends at the club. Next September, he is going to swim for seven hours straight, and once again, he is going to do it for someone else.
He came up with the idea when a coworker at the bank told him that her son had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, one of the most severe forms of the disease. “When she told me, I thought I could raise money for research,” he explains. Then he encouraged all the Group’s employees to collaborate. “A few months before the swim, I’ll post a project on a platform so they everyone can make a contribution.” He also said he would post it on his Google+ account and some of the BBVA communities.
He wants to help so much that when we ask him what he likes the most about open water swimming, he doesn’t talk—like other athletes would—about going beyond his own limits, not even about winning the race; instead, he simply says, “knowing that I am doing it for someone else.”
Three different-sized swimsuits
Open-water swimming is one of the most challenging sports there is. “The hardest part is the loneliness,” Maldonado says. “In other sports, when you start to lose steam, there’s always someone there to cheer you on. But out in the ocean, you’re all alone. When you start to get tired, the jellyfish start to sting you, and the cold water makes your muscles tense up. You have to rely on your mental toughness.”
And he has plenty of that. “I’m very stubborn,” he says laughing. But he also recognizes that his psychological strength allows him to go further than his body. “Some people are much better swimmers than I am. But they don’t have that mental toughness, and they weren’t able to finish races that I have.”
"A few months before the swim, I’ll post a project on a platform so they everyone can make a contribution
Nevertheless, training is obviously essential. In fact, Álvaro says he has three different kinds of swimming gear that he uses according to the season. “When the water is very cold, we can’t train.” That’s when he trains for marathons. “It’s good to carry some fat on your bones when you’re swimming in cold water,” he says half jokingly, “but when I’m training for speed, I lose a lot of weight—30 pounds or more.”
Name: Álvaro Maldonado
Position: Infrastructures Purchasing - Finance BBVA
Function: Manage the purchase of goods and services necessary under the best conditions, while maintaining the service standards and best practices in terms of SCR.
Dream: A cure for Duchene Muscular Dystrophy and ELA and, more specifically, that one day Nico will lead a normal life.
More than an engineer
The mental toughness he exhibits in his races also helps him in his job at BBVA. “When you have to tackle projects like the ones we have in the bank, you have to prepare properly and have a long-term vision.”
Álvaro has learned how to draw on a variety of experiences his job. As an industrial engineer, his career wasn’t necessarily designed to work at a bank. “Sometimes I miss putting a helmet on and going to a work site,” he says. But he acknowledges that he is lucky to be able to apply what he learned at college in a major company. “Now I can see projects from the customer’s point of view, and I understand providers a lot more, because I was in their shoes once.”
Next September, when he dives into the water or when he starts to lose steam, Alvaro will feel the support of his coworkers at BBVA. With their backing, I’m sure he’ll reach his goals.