Four years ago shooter Leuris Pupo departed for the London 2012 Olympic Games in the hope of fulfilling a dream.
At that time he was also looking forward to another important life event. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or a girl, I just want it to be born healthy,” he anxiously told me during the Games, having left his pregnant wife in Havana.
He had however hoped to win the gold medal in the 25 meters rapid-pistol fire competition before the birth of his daughter Celine, now three years old, and sister to an eight month old baby brother.
Before leaving for Río de Janeiro, this reporter spoke with the athlete from Holguin, born on April 9, 1977, and currently participating in his fifth Olympic Games.
“I feel in the best shape ever, although the challenge of defending my gold from London will be a difficult task. My aim is to make it to the finals and once there, we’ll see what happens.
I trained in the United States on two occasions with the team they’re sending to Río. Specifically, I shot against two of their main figures and achieved good results. As part of my training I also participated in two world cups and achieved my best result in Munch where I placed sixth.”
And since then…?
I haveimproved my performance in recent months. Let’s hope, because I am going to Río thinking of my two children and of Cuba, and I am going to do my very best.
FROM VETERAN TO ROOKIE
While this will be Pupo’s fifth Olympic Games, Manrique Larduet from Santiago de Cuba is a newcomer to the competition and very young – a prerequisite to winning in the gymnastics event, although the only way to truly triumph in this discipline is to gain the recognition of the judges at an international level.
What are you taking to Rio?
I performed some high-difficulty moves and everything went according to plan. I have nothing to lose inRío, so I’m going to enjoy the competition and when I return, I’m going straight back to Santiago, because I haven’t been there since 2014, given my intense training schedule.
I am planning on reaching the finals on various pieces of apparatus and once there, anything can happen. I’ve got several strategies worked out for the competition; I have a high difficulty routine on the parallel bars, which I tried out in the World Cup in Portugal, as well as important elements on the rings.
Ángel Fournier is a seasoned rower. His silver medal this year in the men’s single sculls open during the first stage of the World Rowing Cup in Varese, Italy, and third place in Switzerland, stood as a warning to his rivals, all of whom he knows well.
We trained for 23 days in the United States and I think I have a good chance of making it to the finals, as one of the top six in the world, which means I must win four events. It’s important to qualify among the top three in each one, as such I’m hoping to better my seventh place spot in London 2012.
Are you still with kayaker Yusmari Mengana?
Yes, we’ve been together for two years now, she’s leaving for Río on the 10th and also has a good chance of doing well.