14ymedio, Madrid, 13 October 2023 — The Coliseum of Havana’s “Sports City” hosted the ceremony on Thursday to present cars to Cuban athletes “for their significant results”, an event that is repeated almost annually and in which few of the winners are active athletes. Of the 17 who received a Peugeot yesterday, nine are retired athletes, five are coaches, and only three are currently competing, namely Rodolfo Falcón Cabrera, Olympic runner-up in swimming; Ambrosio Zaldívar Mesa, and Ana Ibis Jiménez Pérez, paralympic champions in track and field.
It was precisely the last of these who was in charge of the speech, which began by recalling the promoter of the idea of the “incentive” given. “Let our first words evoke the greatness of the Undefeated Commander, who conceived our sports system marked by the values that distinguish those of us who are incentivized today”.
Their athletic merit, integrity, political and social conduct, and participation in the activities of the Cuban sports system have been recognized.
Castro’s spirit hovered about throughout the ceremony. The general director of Physical Education and Sport for All, José Cedeño, who served as master of ceremonies, made it clear that this payment in kind does not simply recognize professional talent. “It has recognized athletic merit, their upstandingness, political and social conduct, and their participation in the activities of the Cuban sports system,” he stressed.
The official stated that the principle that the cars “are given as an incentive to retired athletes” is “traditional”, “but that exceptionally the board of directors of Inder — the national sports body — can also decide for active athletes, as well as to benefit coaches with exemplary trajectory and results of high significance”. Although the truth is that this is how it has always been done.
“What was indicated by our commander in chief Fidel Castro Ruz, to deliver the cars free of charge, remains in force, as an expression of exceptional recognition to the contributions made by our athletes and coaches, and the upstanding conduct maintained during all these years,” he said.
For this purpose, 30 people were evaluated and more than half of them received the award. In addition to the aforementioned, the retired Marielena Jiménez Pérez (basketball), Germán Mesa Fresneda (baseball), Yordanis Arencibia Verdecia (judo), Vicente La Guardia Llanso (sailing), José A. César Delgado (track and field), Jesús Sollet Tomasén (boxing), Juan Carlos Stevens Caminero (archery), Lourdes Milagros González Molina (diving) and Alfredo Duvergel Adam (boxing) also received awards.
Meanwhile, the lucky coaches were Benito P. Enríquez Gómez (fencing), Juan Arturo Molina González (wrestling), Leonardo Cárdenas Párez (softball), Gavino Arzola Valdés (track and field) and José Elosegui Sánchez (baseball).
In her speech, Ana Ibis Jiménez Pérez expressed her special gratitude for the award being presented “even in the midst of known limitations” and took the opportunity to commit herself, on behalf of everyone, “to be consistent” with the symbolism of an award that, she said, goes beyond the material.
However, nothing rules out the commitment breaking down sooner or later. Olympic boxing champion Andy Cruz starred in one of the most talked-about exits in 2022, including a botched exit due to the whistleblowing of his facilitator. Months earlier he had received a Mercedes-Benz for his victories at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (held in 2021 because of the pandemic).
Olympic boxing champion Andy Cruz starred in one of the most talked-about departures in 2022, including a thwarted departure caused by the betrayal of his ‘facilitator.’ Months earlier he had received a Mercedes-Benz
Canoeist Jorge Enriquez arrived in the U.S. in March 2022, just two months after receiving, in the same event as Cruz, his luxury vehicle.
Their cases were different, however, from that of Iván Pedroso, currently an elite trainer in Spain, who in 1995 received a Ferrari, won in a competition in Italy, which generated a serious dispute with the Cuban authorities, who wanted him to sell it and give part of the money to the regime. Castro himself intervened then, in view of the athlete’s outrage, to authorize the import and “discreet” use of the vehicle. Javier Sotomayor experienced a similar episode when he brought to the island a Mercedes won in Germany.
Less lucky than all of them were the 23 athletes who received the reward in 2017, on that occasion, Chinese cars of an unknown brand. That time the authorities chose the winners from among 505 proposed, compared to 30 applicants this year. A symptom of the fact that these incentives do not help to contain the incessant flight of athletes.
Translated by Isabella as part of University of Miami/Spanish 321
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