On July 25, following the departure of a good part of the Cuban delegation to the Río de Janeiro Olympic Games, Dr. Antonio Becali Garrido, president of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (Inder) and head of the Cuban delegation to the international event, spoke with Granma.
How is the Cuban delegation arriving to these Games as compared to the previous edition? Could you explain the main differences between the two…
Let me start by saying every scenario is different, and what happened four years ago confirmed Cuba’s global positioning. That is why doing better in Río de Janeiro is an important goal, which we have been working toward by developing the potential of our human resources to the maximum, who represent the greatest resource for our sporting movement, which lacks the vast economic support enjoyed by the major sporting powers.
Thus we have been working on perfecting methodologies, up-dating our knowledge, collaborating closely with scientists and researchers, analyzing opponents, statistics and resource management, which our country endeavors to provide us, conscious of what sport represents to millions of our citizens.
In short, rather than talking about differences I should point our that we have undertaken actions which we deem vital in the current context, and highlight the unrelenting work of athletes, coaches, medics, physiotherapists, psychologists and other experts.
Relatively speaking Cuba could do better in these Olympics than the most recent edition of the Pan American Games. How is this possible, if the Olympics are a bigger event that the Pan American Games?
It’s about the specifics of every event, which all demand different results to secure important positionings, and the results of a single sport or just a few competitors can have an important impact on overall outcomes in the Olympic Games.
Hence the importance of having 120 athletes competing in 18 sports, without disregarding the fact that we are stronger in some disciplines than others. We know that this constitutes an example of a strong all-round delegation, which many other countries lack.
Remember that despite an increasingly rigorous qualifying process, which implies greater costs, given a rise in the number of qualifying events, the majority of which are held outside of the Americas, we have more athletes and are competing in a greater number of events than in London 2012.
Although it’s true that our fourth place spot in Toronto 2015 left a lot to be desired, we are also certain that we gave it our all, an attitude we are taking with us to Río de Janeiro.
If I were to ask you to choose thee qualities which best sum-up the Cuban delegation’s preparation process, what would they be? And how would you describe the island’s sporting movement in the current international context, and what efforts are being undertaken to ensure that the country continues to be a global sporting power-house?
Our efforts have, above all, been characterized by the concept of teamwork, of opening spaces to all essential alliances and thinking about the importance of differentiated training based on the specific characteristics and potential of each athlete.
Another important element has been the participation of commissions and technical teams who use available resources – in accordance with our competitive and economic possibilities – to help athletes qualify for largest number of spots possible.
But no analysis would be complete without highlighting the constant follow-up and support offered by the country’s leadership and the Cuban Olympic Committee, without which it would not be possible to attain the high competitive level we have achieved to date, from training to medical support, anti-doping testing, dietary requirements, or meeting other needs.
It is also important to highlight the contribution of other bodies and institutions, and political and mass organizations, from the provinces and municipalities, without disregarding their very real limitations.
In regards to the international sporting situation, we regret the fact that it is being affected by drug-doping scandals and other ills driven by financial interests completely unrelated to the essence of sports.
We Cubans, loyal to the humanist spirit which guarantees sport as a right for all, are facing the challenge of increasing efficiency and better exploiting the knowledge we have acquired through mechanisms created by the Revolution, while at the same time, continuing to raise our level within the international sporting arena, through opportunities to participate in foreign leagues and other exchanges which will help to bring us closer to reaching the top competitive and training levels for both athletes and experts.
Do you have any information about the event facilities in Río and the Athletes’ Village, what is your view on the quality and organization of the Río Games?
The information we have suggests world class facilities and adequate organization for this type of event, and although we have been keeping informed about problems linked to budgeting issues, delays on certain works and other problems, we hope that this doesn’t prevent an overall positive outcome for what will be the return of this event to our continent.
Where do Cuba’s main hopes lie?
It is common knowledge that boxing will once again be a key discipline, given its legacy and the outstanding level achieved by Cuba’s national team, which features World and Olympic champions and medalists.
We also hope for good news in the athletics competitions, in wrestling and judo, which also include elite figures, as well as Taekwondo, gymnastics, shooting, rowing, cycling and canoeing, where every athlete will go out there and do their job.
Beyond predictions and prognostics, what can the Cuban people hope to see from national athletes competing in Río?
The only certainty is our conviction that we will triumph, effort, commitment, and responsibility for the task we have undertaken to the Cuban people who deserve all the effort and joy we can offer them, in honor of their humility and patriotism.
Athletes know that every time they go out to compete, they will be motivated by the goal of living up to the example set by Fidel, to whom we wish to give much joy on his 90th birthday, and Raúl, who has called on us to grow as the battle gets more difficult.
The maxim under which we will compete ‘Committed to our history,’ encapsulates all the symbolism with which we defend the Cuban flag, received at the foot of the Monument of Cuba’s national hero, José Martí.