Stampede of Cuban Athletes at the Pan American Games in Chile: Seven Escape in the Last Few Days

Six hockey players left the Cuban team after losing the fifth place game against Uruguay. (Facebook/Francys Romero)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 5 November 2023 —  The escapes this Saturday in Chile of the Cuban field hockey players Yunia Milanés, Jennifer Martínez, Yakira Guillén, Lismary González, Helec Carta and Geidy Morales, and the bronze medalist in the 400 meters hurdles, Yoao Illas, defeated the enthusiasm of the regime who proclaimed the achievement of 30 gold medals, one more than the sports authorities of the Island dared to predict in the Pan American Games.

Milanés, Martínez, Guillén, González, Carta and Morales, according to journalist Francys Romero, “left the group at noon on Saturday, after completing the game for fifth place that they lost against Uruguay (3-0)” in the Pan American Games, that end this Sunday.

Francys Romero also detailed that, with the escape of the six hockey players, 61 Cuban athletes have abandoned contracts or delegations during 2023.

Hockey is one of the disciplines hardest hit by the exodus on the Island due to the precarious conditions in which the athletes train, according to Daylin Suárez, Yadira Miclín Galban and Marianela López, who left the team last May because the Institute National Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (Inder) had them “starving and cooking with firewood.” They indicated that the salary was “a pittance,” in addition to the fact that they were “hungrier than a caged lion.”

The three athletes who escaped in Spain requested political asylum, but the immigration interview will not take place until February 2024. “The situation at the Antonio Maceo Field Hockey School in Havana is very sad. There is a lot of hunger” Daylin Suárez reiterated to 14ymedio. “We train in terrible conditions, without sports equipment, because the country says it does not have the resources to care for athletes.”

In that same month, Lázaro Tolón, Yuri Brown and Yordanqui Méndez left “a training camp in Chile.” The first of the hockey players escaped on the second day of their stay where the Pan American Games are held.

The day after the Toulon escape, Yuri Brown was reported missing. The Havana athlete did not appear at the roll call held by those responsible for the delegation. Meanwhile Yordanqui Méndez took the opportunity to leave the Cuban team after the euphoria due to the beating that Cuba gave, 11-0 goals, to the Manquehue club team.

Las velocistas Laura Moreira, Enis Pérez, Yarima García y Yunisleidy de la Caridad García conquistaron el oro en el relevo 4x100 metros. (Jit)
The sprinters Laura Moreira, Enis Pérez, Yarima García and Yunisleidy de la Caridad García won gold in the 4×100 meter relay. (Jit)

In another escape, the bronze medalist in the 400 meters hurdles, Yoao Illas, separated from the group after clocking 49.74 seconds and reaching the podium in Chile.

“The lack of attention from the authorities and the deep crisis that the country is going through, accompanied by the possibilities that open up in other latitudes, are the main causes of the abandonment of athletes,” summarized Swing Completo about Yoao Illas, who this year was champion in the Alba Games in Venezuela and the Cuba Cup in Havana.

The 382 Cubans who arrived in Santiago de Chile, with the burden of escapes in recent months, showed new faces. The authorities only dared to predict between 18 and 22 gold medals, 12 silver and more than 35 bronze medals.

This Sunday, the medal table shows that the Island has accumulated 30 gold medals, 21 silver and 17 bronze for a total of 68, which keeps them in fifth place, surpassed by Canada, Mexico, Brazil and the United States.

Judo gave the Island five individual medals and one for the team. The successes of experienced judokas, such as Idalis Ortiz (+78 kg), were combined with the revelations of rookies such as Idelannis Gómez, just 21 years old, who won gold by beating the Puerto Rican María Pérez in the 70 kg division. The president of the Cuban Judo Federation, Rafael Manso, attributed the winning of the medals to the “positive mind, work, and a lot of faith in victory.”

Athletics that had been suffering from abandonments, in the Pan American Games found an historic performance with the conquest of the gold medal in the 4×100 meter relay in the sprinters Laura Moreira, Enis Pérez, Yarima García and Yunisleidy de la Caridad García. The runners, belonging to a new generation of athletes, stopped the clocks at 43.72 seconds.

The surprise was even greater in the women’s 100 meter dash where Yunisleidy de la Caridad García rose to the top of the podium with surprising strength despite not being in the majority’s pools for the metals. The 24-year-old athlete achieved a medal for Cuba that had eluded the island for 32 years with a time of 11.36 seconds. “It wasn’t my best mark, but I gave it my all from the heart on that track. After running the semifinal I knew I could win,” she assured the official media outlet Jit.

Cuba sumó este sábado también cuatro medallas de oro en lucha grecorromana. (Jit)
This Saturday, Cuba also added four gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling. (Jit)

This Saturday, Cuba also added four gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling, finishing with eight gold medals at the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games, the most by country in this sport in these events. The winners were Daniel Gregorich (87 kilos), Gabriel Rosillo (97 kilos), Luis Orta (67 kilos) and Oscar Pino (130 kilos) in a competition held at the Olympic Training Center in the Chilean capital.

Gregorich beat Venezuelan Luis Avendaño 5-1, Rosillo beat Venezuelan Luillys Pérez 9-1, Luis Orta beat Colombian Julián Horta 10-1, and Pino beat American Cohlton Schultz 6-0.

In comparison, Cuba won 100 metals at the Pan American Games in Lima (2019) and 97 in Toronto (2015), where it achieved its worst results in more than two decades, after reaching 265 in Havana (1991) and the 238 in Mar de Plata (1995).

This decline is linked to the deep crisis in which the Island is immersed, which complicates the training of athletes. Furthermore, many athletes are leaving Cuba under these circumstances to try their luck as professionals in other countries.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.