Athletes or Heroes and Heroines?

Athletes or Heroes and Heroines?
Fecha de publicación: 
6 May 2024
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I assure you that athletes have many heroes and heroines, I tell one of my neighbors who is very skeptical in that sense. To convince him I told him about some examples and they don’t always have to do with the work of great aces. Although among them there are quite a few samples of this type that makes them greater. I share them with you.

I started home: Ana Fidelia! Even though it’s well known, this case is still awesome and illuminating. I will quote what Fidel expressed in relation to the process lived by the runner, world champion and Olympic medalist again after the accident that almost killed her: “To save Ana Fidelia Quirot, two things came together: a miracle of science and the technique with a miracle of human will... We admired Ana Fidelia for her iron will and the colossal effort to win the title of world champion in the 800 meters, which is a well-deserved award for one of the acts of solidarity, to the greatest sporting feat we have ever accomplished, and to one of the greatest efforts that have ever been made in sport. The history of sport will thank you…” (9-13-1995).
It’s not the only case of this type in our country. Many Cuban athletes were rescued for their agonistic work, even from disability or death, thanks to the Frank País Hospital and the wonderful orthopedic doctor Rodrigo Álvarez Cambras. I bring up another heroic act, which occurred in the ring of the Pan American Games in Mexico City in 1975, when the 81 kg Orestes Pedroso defeated the North American León Spinks, despite having a fractured hand since the middle of the fight. He endured the tremendous pain and continued fighting until he won. His rival won among the light heavyweights in Montreal 1976 and had a good professional performance.

The first Olympic ace was expelled from the University for competing in the I Games. The North American James Conolly, with 13.71 meters in triple jump, became the first Olympic champion of modern times when he won in Athens 1896. He also competed in the high and long jump: with 1.72 and 6.11, he ended second and third, surpassed by his countryman Ellery Clark by 1.81 and 6.35. Robert Garret, from the same team won the subtitle (6. 18) in the long jump.

The big prize came later when he returned to his country: he was expelled from Harvard University, where he was studying, for having traveled to Greece to participate in the contest without asking permission from his professors! They reconsidered the penalty and he graduated there. At age 81, in 1949, he was awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by said university, which was influenced by his outstanding work as a writer and journalist. He died on January 20, 1957.

Defeat after defeat, although he put his heart into competing in the 1,500, the 5,000, the 10,000 in the 3,000 with obstacles. There were coaches who wanted to transfer him to chess. “Maybe he’ll do better there.” But the East German Waldemar Cierpinski wanted to be a long-distance runner. And a winner. Before such much love shown, a coach moved by his effort took charge of him, and changed his specialty. That brought him ridicule, acidic comments: “He’s gone crazy. Train him for the marathon race, the hardest..."

Montreal 1976. At 42 kilometers and 195 meters, Waldemar is his country's first gold medalist at that distance. Moscow 1980. I saw him repeat the victory: also give a mischievous smile and words with a similar flavor to a journalist who commented during the interview: “You must have always been, since you were a child, a winner. Then the interviewee, according to the translator, dropped something like this: “Don't believe so, don't believe so.”

Ágnes Keleti smiles, laughs, gets emotional and excited in the screen when she remembers her sporting wins. She was 99 years old when she was interviewed in Israel during the big 2020 party. She was Ágnes Keleti, one of the oldest Olympic champions still alive. Hungarian of Jewish origin, she suffered Nazism in her own family when several of her ancestors were murdered, and she had to wander through  mountains, barely surviving or reside in foreign lands to escape death until fascist Germany was defeated.

Recovering from her physical and mental lacerations, although not forgotten, she participated in Melbourne 1956. They wanted her to compete in artistic gymnastics to demonstrate the fallacy of inferiority spread by Hitler’s followers. Her coaches had trained her very well, and in the 16 Olympic edition she showed it. Keleti competed individually with the wonderful Larisa Latinina. The Soviet achieved the highest individual score by accumulating 74.933. The Magyar seconded it with 74,633.

The best in the general classification also triumphed in the jumps on horseback (18,833) and freehands (18,732 and Ágnes, with the same score, occupied the same place in the executions on the floor and surpassed her on the balance beam (18,800) and the asymmetrical bars (18,996). In the aforementioned competition, Larisa added the highest medal in the team competition (444.80) while her most difficult opponent added the collective subtitle to her achievements (444.50). Latinina is among the athletes with the greatest number of awards in the games rescued by Pierre de Coubertin with 9 gold, 4 silver and 5 third places, while Keleti ranks among the greats of its discipline with 5-3-4.
It’s a pity that Ágnes later settled in Israel, and lived for many years without rebelling in a nation run by criminals and alienators of her people, in the style of those who damaged the world so much, a suffering that the Keleti family felt firsthand, as now Palestinians suffer it.

Yuri Tyukalov is one of the many children and adolescents who are very active participants in the confrontation with the Nazi siege of Leningrad. Hitler's troops press in. They try to deliver the final blow. Those surrounded strengthen the fight. They go beyond. The initial courage of the heroes of the Brest Fortress shows the path to choose despite the mistakes of the top brass. It can later be discussed ; while they find the way. The Leningrad people are confident that they will find it and what they have to do, because it’s the honest thing to do, is to fight by combining soul with intelligence, dignity with knowledge.

Advancement must be added to that resistance. They must be willing to die for the country, but even more willing to destroy the enemy. Break through the siege and beat them. Adolescents and children contribute. Victory of the people. Invaders humiliated. They are already parading through the streets of defeat. Tyukalov was one of those grown infants. He supported the fighters. He brought them food. He cleaned the weapons. He participated in sabotage, in the necessary violence of goodness against the violence of evil.
He now climbs into his boat, which is very far from modern. He will compete in the waters of Helsinki, the rowing venue in the 15 Olympic Games. He believes in the strength of his arms, discipline and dedication in his training and coaching. He is not daunted by the ship's delay. He endures the mockery of several rivals. Many of them, members of aristocratic clubs, they even have noble titles.
Final of the skiff or individual sculls specialty. There goes the Soviet rower! His homeland debuts in the classic forged by Coubertin. He move forward, paddeling ever forward. The opponents are left behind, among them, several who mocked him. Yuri Tyukalov is the champion of the event in 1952 with a time of 8:12.8. In this order, the Australian Wood (8:14.5), the Polish Kocerca (8:19.4), the Englishman Fox (8: 22.5) and the South African Stephen (8:31.4) remain on their impeccable boats. Wood had won in London 1948. The waters of Finland surrendered to the oars handled by Yuri as the Hitler’s followers did in Leningrad to the troops of the Soviet Union.

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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