Isabela Iantosca’s quest to lead Mexico to Pan American Games tennis medals began 24 years ago, when she lost in the early rounds as a player in the Havana, Cuba, competition.
Today in Toronto, the senior director of marketing for ESPN International coaches Mexico’s women’s tennis team in the gold medal rounds of singles and doubles play in the 2015 Pan American Games. Iantosca has led the three-woman team of Marcela Zacharias, Victoria Rodrigues and Ana Sofia Sanchez to unexpected glory.
“People are surprised because Mexico was not expected to win a medal in tennis,” said Iantosca, a former Pepperdine University two-time All-American before joining ESPN in 2000. “Everyone is super excited. [I am] excited, happy, honored and grateful for the opportunity to live this experience.”
This afternoon around 3 p.m. ET at the Canadian Tennis Center in Toronto, Mexico’s Rodrigues meets Colombia’s Mariana Duque Marino in the women’s singles gold medal match. In the women’s gold medal doubles match later this evening, Rodrigues teams with Zacharias to represent Mexico against host Canada’s duo of Gaby Dabrowski and Carol Zhao.
“I had confidence in the players before the competition because they had been training hard and had been playing lots of tournaments,” Iantosca said of her team. “You always have to hope and wish for the best.”
With at least silver medals guaranteed, Iantosca has more laurels for a distinguished tennis career that includes winning the USTA’s Women’s 40 crown in 2014. In the 1991 Pan Am Games in Cuba, she lost an early-round match to eventual gold medalist and tennis Hall of Famer Pam Shriver – who is now an ESPN analyst and co-worker.
Iantosca said “it would be an honor to coach the Mexico team again” should the team qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. She is grateful to ESPN for allowing her the opportunity to participate in the Pan Am Games, which are airing on ESPN platforms through July 26.
“My ESPN colleagues have been super supportive, especially my team at ESPN International and colleagues at ESPN Deportes. I’ve received emails and calls wishing me luck and expressing their support. The people at ESPN are awesome.”
Note: Iantosca has shared a “selfie” video of her team’s march in the 2015 Pan American Games’ opening ceremonies July 10 in Toronto’s Rogers Centre.