A delegation of 57 athletes will represent Cuba at the V Parapan American Games in Toronto, taking place August 7-15. The Parapan Am Games will bring together more than 1,600 athletes from 28 countries to compete in 15 sports. Eleven venues used in the recently-concluded XVII Pan Am Games will be outfitted and used for Parapan Am competition.
Cuba will compete in eight of the 15 events, including, for the first time, wheelchair tennis (2 players) and sitting volleyball (12). Cuba is also fielding 18 athletes in the track and field competition, eight in judo, six in table tennis, five weightlifters, five swimmers and one cyclist.
The Cuban delegation gathered on Friday, July 29 at the José Martí monument in Havana to receive the standard and commit to compete and defend the country’s flag with honour. Through this commitment the athletes show their support for and gratitude to the revolution “that is above all humanistic,” said swimmer Lorenzo Pérez.
The ceremony was presided over by Antonio Becali, President of the Cuban Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER), José Blanch Ferrer, President of the National Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ANCI) and Mabel Ballesteros, President of the National Association for those with Physical and Motor Limitations (ACLIFIM) along with other leaders and officials.
At the monument, the flag was received by Yunidis Castillo, holder of several world paralympic track and field records. She was flanked by judoka Jorge Hierrezuelo and shot put, discus and javelin thrower Leonardo Díaz. Long jumper Luis Felipe Gutiérrez, judoka Dalysdaivis Rodríguez and sprinter Omara Durand laid a floral wreath at the monument in tribute to Marti, Cuba’s national hero.
Cuban track and field competitor Gerdan Fonseca and table tennis player Yanelis Silva have taken part in the last four Parapan Am Games. Fonseca explained his recent training routine and what he hopes to achieve in Toronto in an interview with Granma.
“We developed a strong training routine in Guantánamo province and I hope to be able to beat my personal records in discus (47.18 metres) and javelin (51) in the F-44 category. For the past almost five months the prosthetic blade has helped increase the speed and coordination of my run-up. My trainer Xiomara Rivero and I have done detailed work with my technique, explosiveness and the final push following the five crossover steps. Everything should flow in Toronto,” Fonseca said.
Another track and field athlete, Omara Durand, said Toronto represents a trial by fire. “It will be my most demanding competition, coming off my maternity leave. I had to follow a strict diet that included vitamin supplements, combined with arduous training sessions to return to my ideal weight of 58 kg. I reached it with the unconditional support of my husband Noleysis Bicet, my mother Adis Elías and my coach, Miriam Ferrer. Now that I am in top form all that remains is to devote all my attention to getting the times I need in the 100 m, 200 m and 400 m heats,” she said.
The Cuban team will attempt to match or exceed their performance at the Parapan Am Games in Guadalajara 2011 where they held down fourth place with 27 gold, 16 silver and 11 bronze medals. Ahead of them were Brazil (81-61-55), the United States (51-47-34) and Mexico (50-60-55). Argentina (19-25-11) and Colombia (18-23-13) placed behind Cuba in the top six. Canada (13-22-28) placed 13th in 2011 but is expected to improve its rank this time in its capacity as host country.