High hopes as Cuban Olympic delegation departs for Tokyo

by Yosley Carrero

HAVANA, July 14 (Xinhua) — Cuban pole vaulter Yarisley Silva, 34, continues training tirelessly as she expects to gain a new Olympic medal in the coming days if all goes to plan.

She is part of Cuba’s Olympic delegation, which departed from Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport on Wednesday evening to Japan to participate in the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games.

Silva, along with a batch of elite athletes, was taken to the central province of Camaguey several months ago as the country’s capital of Havana struggled with rising COVID-19 cases.

Silva, who recently recovered from COVID-19, has won several medals at world championships, the 2012 Olympic Games, and Pan-American Games, but this time “it has a special meaning,” she said.

“I missed Rio 2016 but I am now back on track. I want to become an Olympic champion for the first time,” she told Xinhua. “I know it is difficult but I’ll go for it.”

Out of the 69 Cuban competitors at the Tokyo Games, there are 18 track and fielders, 12 wrestlers and seven boxers.

In addition, athletes from shooting, beach volleyball, canoeing, pentathlon, artistic gymnastics, rowing and swimming have also secured their spots for Tokyo, according to official data.

In recent days, Cuba’s female judoka Idalys Ortiz said the island’s competitors are committed to defend principles and values in keeping with Olympism.

“We will fight, convinced of what it means to Cuba. We will do it with honor, combativeness and adherence to values that distinguish us,” she said during an official ceremony at Havana’s Jose Marti Revolution Square.

Cuban Olympic athletes and coaches have been immunized against COVID-19 with three doses of locally-made vaccines, in consideration of strict protocols that will be in place at Tokyo Olympics.

Ariel Sainz, vice president of Cuba’s Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation told Xinhua that this is the result of the public health system on the island, adding that a strategy has been implemented to adapt Cuban athletes to the time zone in Japan.

“Our country continues preparing and consolidating its strategy for Cuba to continue among the top 20 in the medales table at the Tokyo Olympics,” he said.

Cuba has amassed 226 medals since its debut at the 1900 Paris Games, ranking first among Latin American and Caribbean countries in Olympic history.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said that the island’s athletes represent the wishes of a country, and give an example of resilience, wisdom and solidarity in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In every dignified performance, in every victory, in every medal, you are offering a tribute, a recognition to the Cuban people,” he said in a recent address to the Cuban Olympic delegation in Havana.

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