MEXICO CITY – Mikel Arriola, running for Mexico City mayor on the ticket of the nationally ruling PRI party, is a former jai alai champion who says that the discipline and competitive spirit instilled in him as athlete prepared him for a political career.
“Jai alai has taught me how to win and lose and how to always stay disciplined,” Arriola, who is also the former head of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), told EFE.
The candidate, a staunch defender of the “traditional family,” was born in Mexico City in 1975 and has jai alai in his blood.
His grandfather, Salvador Arriola Idarraga, was one of the jai alai players who inaugurated the iconic Fronton Mexico in 1929.
“It is thanks to jai alai that I am here, since my father was able to go to university, which allowed me to study as well. I knew my grandfather very well, he was a deeply honest and principled man,” Arriola said.
Arriola became passionate about jai alai when he was a young boy and starting playing professionally when he turned 13.
He reached the world championship in 1991 and returned four more times before retiring as a professional in 2013.
“This was my sport until 2013, when I played for the last time in the world championship, having already won five silver medals,” he said.
His jai alai career did not prevent Arriola from earning advanced degrees from the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics.
Arriola, who joined the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 2017, said jai alai is his “sport and passion.”
“It has helped me overcome all of the tensions of public administration and politics,” he said.
Arriola continues to play, even during the campaign.
“I do it because I love jai alai but also for survival,” he said, adding that the sport allows him to remain “centered.”
The PRI politician is running for Mexico City mayor in the July 1 general elections. The sprawling has capital has been governed since 1997 by the left-leaning PRD.