There is one word in life, which suits perfectly in sports, that embraces one virtue I believe every human being must have: gratitude.
The presence in social networks of gymnast Manrique Larduet — one of the two Cuban gymnasts qualified to the Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo —has called the attention of people. He recently returned to the training sessions at the National Gymnastic School looking to regain his optimal sports shape.
Such a sports shape helped him to compete fairly with the best gymnasts of the world as he did in the 2015 Glasgow World Championship where he earned the silver medal in the top overall scorer event (90.698 points), the bronze medal in the high bar event (15.600) as well as his 5th position in the standing of the all-around event (86.031) in Montreal 2017.
And all these track records under the guidance of his longtime coach to whom Manrique himself describes as a father: Carlos Rafael Hernández Gil.
Life sometimes pushes us to our limits to get the best of ourselves as human beings. Manrique’s sports career has not been easy lately: he underwent surgery in his prime, which kept him away from competing more than a year in top events.
Afterwards, his comeback has been slow to make sure he would not hurt again physically and thus pursue his dream to win an Olympic medal. He suffered a leg injury in Rio de Janeiro 2016, which vanished his dream after a fall in the high bar exercise.
You may wonder how all of this fits with gratitude. Native from Santiago de Cuba on July 10, 1996, Manrique qualified to the Japanese capital in Stuttgart, last year, where he ended 21st in the final standing.
Well, the connection is undeniable. Think of the person who, before he was five years old, accompanied him throughout his sporting career. He is that inseparable coach, confidant, friend ... father, capable of understanding with just a gesture, any situation that might arise.
Think of growing up together, in the weekends spent at Gil's house as Larduet himself told to CubaSí, in the physiological and changes of mind, the transition from childhood to adolescence, and then to adulthood and sports maturity. Think on the tears of emotion or sadness. And then reflect on a rupture, incomprehensible to many, between mentor and disciple.
I'm sure that is what Manrique and Gil have done, sleeping on it, in these seven months of "calmness" and more hours than usual to think over things.
And the answer is found in the open letter posted by Manrique to his coach, and his response, permeated by an indescribable emotion. Here we leave both letters:
Open letter to my coach
Time has passed and it has been perfect to consider things. I am writing to you and I am doing it publicly in order to tell you that I regret having told you at some point that I want to train with someone else. I admit that it is not fair after all the time we have spent together, after so many sacrifices, so many dreams fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled. That is our achievement. I assume I never thought we would break up. All of Cuba would not believe it either. Today, most of them do not know about this distance between us and I also appreciate your discretion. You never said it in any public interview. I did not either.
But what nobody knows is that despite the distance, our hearts remained together. We both have learned from this. Now I understand that above all things, you are so proud of my victories, but remember you are part of them all.
I have felt very bad, actually. It is so hard to train without you... Yes, it is true, I can train with any coach, because each of them deserve my respect, but the relationship, friendship, brotherhood, blood ties, union, which make a perfect square binomial, that is not achieved with anyone but you. We know what it is to fight each other, stop talking for 3 days, 3 months, a year, but we also know what it is to enjoy a victory, cry a defeat, suffer it, and yet I know that you suffer them more, because of the responsibilities you have on your shoulders as a coach.
Friend, I honestly do not see the time to say goodbye to you because I do not want it to come...I know that you would not like to leave your sacrifice just like that...I understand everything you are going through. I remember when I had problems you never left me alone. Today, I am doing the same thing I learned from you: to never let alone those who helped you. I prefer that whatever we achieve, or not, just involves the two of us, not third parties.
I think Covid has been very useful to think over things and I want to do things right.
We are against the clock, but our dream was always the Olympic medal. We have to work together. We cannot lose these twelve years of sacrifice, both mine and yours.
Many people dream of seeing us shine again. I feel like when we start from scratch and we have to get back up because we and our sport need it.
You are the most important element to me at the school. You give me the strength to look good before my country, my people and you. I do not care about opinions, what we have been through as father and son belongs to you and me.
I count on your understanding and you to take into account the results we have achieved. You are and will always be my coach. The one who was always there from top to bottom.
I trust the Olympic result will finally come. I feel ready to fight, but our sport is getting more and more difficult and I need your help.
I take my words back. You are and will continue to be my coach because people around the world admire us for what we have accomplished.
The Cuban people dream of seeing us compete together again… Tokyo 2021 awaits us, champion!
Carlos Gil’s answer
Manrique Larduet Bicet. Here I am champion!!!!!!
I do not think I can write everything I feel right now. The tears in my eyes, the speed with which my heart beats and the instability in my hands do not allow it. I wish I could have you in front of me to give you that hug I have for you. I always told you that I was going to be here, ready for whatever you need.
I am writing this fast. I am too excited but I just want to tell you that I am here, my son. I am ready to go all in and fight like every father does for his children. There are no impossible if we are together. Let me take a minute. Let me cry. I need it. I want to hug you! Do not feel alone, I am here.
I have read it with deep emotion and other amazing couples in Cuban sports have come to my mind, where lessons, advices, and endless journeys resulted not only in medals, but also in a sort of paternal relationship, expressed in unlimited gratitude.
We have the examples of Teófilo Stevenson-Alcides Sagarra; Driulis González and Idalys Ortiz-Ronaldo Veitía; Mireya Luis, Regla Torres-Eugenio George; Javier Sotomayor-José Goddoy; Iván Pedroso-Milán Matos; Ana Fidelia Quiroz-Blas Beato, Leandro Civil; José Antonio Guerra-Lino Socorro; Roniel Iglesias-Raúl Fernández; and Mijaín López-Pedro Val…
And many others who have surely done everything in terms of dedication and sacrifices so that their pupils are worthy representatives of the Cuban sports movement.
I go back to where it all began, gratitude. Understanding the importance and magnitude of that word in our daily work will surely enhance our coaches and athletes’ perspective and it will certainly make us better as human beings.
Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff