14ymedio, Havana, 23 December 2023 — Six medalists were part of the group of 77 athletes in international events who decided to break with Cuban sports in 2023. On the list, published by Cubalite, is Yoenlis Hernández Feliciano, double world champion in boxing in the 165-pound category. There is also the judoka Arnaes Odelín, winner in the 125-pound category at the Central American and Caribbean Games in San Salvador.
In addition Hangelen Llaanes, another gold medalist in the Salvadoran event, left the team’s training in Paris in September before traveling to Serbia. The escape of the habanera, who last year was distinguished as one of the most outstanding athletes in the discipline, left Cuba without the possibility of a medal in the 150-pound category in the Pan-Americans.
Another of the blows that the regime received was the escape, in June, of the discus thrower Denia Caballero. The athlete broke relations with the Island after winning the silver medal at the Meeting Diputación de Castellón (Spain), with a throw of 207 feet. Journalist Francys Romero indicated that, since the beginning of this year, the Cuban Athletics Federation has “hindered” the athlete’s negotiations with Portugal.
In June, the bronze medalist at the Central American and Caribbean Games (Barranquilla 2018) and at the Pan American Games (Lima 2019), Arisleidy Márquez, escaped along with Yudisaday Rodríguez, Melisa Arias and Geidy Maceo. The athletes, handball representatives, left the training in France.
In addition, Yoao Illas Puentes, Pan-American bronze medalist in the 1,300-feet hurdles, took advantage of his stay in Chile last November to desert. The native of Bahía Honda, in the province of Pinar del Río, in April of this same year won the gold medal in the V ALBA Games (Venezuela) in the 4×1,300-feet test in mixed relay alongside Roxana Gómez, Lisneidy Veitía and Yoandys Lescay.
In Chile, grass hockey players Yunia Milanés, Jennifer Martínez, Yakira Guillén, Lismary González, Helec Carta and Geidy Morales also fled. These athletes, according to journalist Francys Romero, “left the training … after completing the game for fifth place against Uruguay (3-0)” in the Pan-Americans. They were joined by handball representative Lidier Vergara.
In the same event, the blind swimmer Yunerki Ortega left the Pan-Americana Villa where the athletes were staying. “Passers-by helped him take a taxi to a service center near the National Stadium,” said T13 news in Chile.
The regime accepted in October that the desertions of athletes and coaches have affected Cuban sports, as recognized by the general director of High Performance of the National Institute of Sport, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER), José Antonio Miranda, speaking on State TV’s Round Table program.
Between 2022 and September of this year, 191 athletes broke their relationship with the sports authorities of the Island, the official said. As usual, according to the Cuban authorities, the main cause of the desertions is the American “blockade,” to which Miranda added the “complex economic scenario” that the country is going through.
The figures on the escapes of Cuban athletes are devastating. In January, the official weekly Trabajadores counted the abandonment of 862 athletes in a decade, of whom 635 were baseball players. By adding the recent data offered by INDER, there are now 1,053 athletes who have left the Island.
Translated by Regina Anavy
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.