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Windsor goalie shines representing Mexico at IIFH Championship

A 17-year-old hockey goalie who lives in Windsor is fresh off a historic run representing his home country of Mexico at the IIHF U18 World Championship in Istanbul.

Santiago Cucuraqui and his team brought home silver – Mexico’s first medal in 14 years.

“I’m pretty happy about it because we made history,” he said. “This is the first medal we’ve won after so long.”

Cucuraqui moved to Canada with his mother and two younger brothers in 2022. His family aimed to help him further his education.

He also plays as a netminder for his school, Academie Ste-Cecile International School, a position he said he felt called to when he stumbled into the sport at age seven living in Mexico.

“I don’t know what happened, exactly. It was just a feeling,” said Cucuraqui.

“My mom likes to tell this story: one time I was on the ice as a player and I disappeared. I came back onto the ice with goalie equipment… and they scored on me many times.”

He said hard work and strong support led him to the level he’s at now – leaving Istanbul with not just the silver medal but also awards for ‘Goalie of the Tournament’ overall and ‘Player of the Tournament’ for Team Mexico.

He’s modest, but admitted that he was happy to have done well for his team and his home country.

In conversation, he repeatedly said “it’s a process.” Working hard every day at his game and at setting an example for other young Mexicans.

“I hope it inspires many kids out there and shows them that even though it’s not our sport, because it’s another climate, to show them that we as Mexicans, we can do it,” said Cucuraqui.

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His mother, Alejandra Gascon, stood behind him beaming with pride.

She gave up a lot to bring her children to Canada. Her husband, Santiago’s father, remained in Mexico for work, so they are apart for much of the year.

He got to join his family in Turkey to see Santiago succeed.

Santiago Cucuraqui, goalie for Team Mexico, is back in Windsor, Ont., on Monday, March 25, 2024. (Travis Fortnum/CTV News Windsor)“It’s a huge project supporting him,” Gascon said. “But looking at the results? Everything’s worth it.”

She recalled the initial confusion and “craziness” of seven-year-old Santiago deciding he wanted to put on a pair of skates.

“I didn’t know anything about hockey,” she said.

She said there would be no regrets about taking this road with him – even if he hadn’t claimed an impressive collection of hardware.

“We need to support our kids in anything that they want. It’s not our lives, and we need to respect that, even though we didn’t know anything about the sport.”

Cucuraqui’s school is also proud to see the path he’s chosen.

Samantha Morin, Principal of the upper school at Academie Ste-Cecile International School, said he’s a “wonderful” student.

“He’s very polite and well-respected among the staff. He’s hardworking. He spends 90 minutes a day practicing on the ice as well as balancing seven classes.”

Cucuraqui finished the previous season for the school with an .828% save percentage. After he graduates, he said his dream is to play hockey for the University of Michigan.

“It’s a process,” he said. “This is not the end.”

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