Cuban boxers reveal secret to their success from modest training grounds

Cuban boxers reveal secret to their success from modest training grounds
Fecha de publicación: 
19 February 2024
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 On the outskirts of Havana, the small town of Wajay has been quietly producing some of the best Olympic boxers in the world for decades.

Since 1972, spurred by Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro`s passion and investment in sport, Cuban fighters have taken 41 Olympic gold medals, 19 silver and 18 bronze - an awe-inspiring haul unmatched by any other country other than the much larger and wealthier United States.

Two-time Olympic champion Julio La Cruz, 34, sweating profusely following a training session, smiles coyly when asked Cuba`s secret to success.

"Without having great things, we do great things," he told Reuters in an interview. "We do not have the most modern equipment in the world, nor the latest technology," he said, but the coaches are "the best in the world."

"Medals are earned in daily preparation," he said, noting that modern technology and medicine are still no substitutes for hard work.

Reuters obtained unusual access to the Wajay facility, which consists of single story buildings housing multiple training rings, a trophy museum, basketball courts, simple concrete block dorms and even a small banana plant patch to help feed the in-residence athletes.

But La Finca, as the National Boxing School is known, is more notable for what it lacks. There is little sophisticated equipment, no cutting-edge computer monitoring, no hydromassage to finish the day as may be typical in high-end competition and training venues in Europe of the United States.

In addition to spending hours in the gym, the boxers complete their training by hitting truck tires, homemade sandbags, and ropes used to pull trucks out of ditches.

Coach Robinson Poll says the facility currently trains 40 boxers, of which three are headed to the Paris 2024 Olympic games in July.

He declined to reveal whether a secret sauce was stirred into typical plate of rice and beans served on a recent training day.

"There are no secrets in our preparation," Poll said. "These boys do two sessions a day despite limitations with energy recovery drugs, a shortage of medicines, and decades of United States sanctions."

A fanatic for sports, especially for baseball and boxing, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro touted world-class boxers and baseball players, among other athletes, as proof of his communist-run government`s success in sport and culture.

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