The Cuban delegation in Toronto for the V Parapan Am Games celebrated the 89th birthday of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Revolution on August 13. The gathering at the athletes’ village was marked with joy and expressions of gratitude for Fidel for his attention to guaranteeing that Cuban society makes sport accessible to all.
Gold medal weightlifter Leidy Rodriguez sang a song congratulating Fidel on the occasion in a bold and confident voice. The event was the culmination of an unforgettable Parapan Am Games debut for Rodriguez, who lost both legs two years ago at age 29.
“Cubans always celebrate Fidel’s birthday and for me it is an honor and source of pride to do so in such an emotional way with all my teammates. We all dedicated our wins and performances to him. Without his support we would not be here,” Rodriguez told JIT.
Javelin and discus thrower Gerdan Fonseca, a veteran of all five Parapan Am Games said he always values the special celebration. For athletes competing abroad it is particularly special “because it also raises morale and is a reminder that [Fidel] is always with us,” he said.
Fonseca said the celebration was an extra incentive to compete during the first medal events and in those to come. Such events are “a great performance of which Fidel, Raul and the Revolution are a major part,” he said.
The celebration carried over into the international area of the athlete’s village. María de los Ángeles Ávila, Vice-President of the Cuban Association for Persons with Physical and Motor Limitations (ACLIFIM) wished Fidel happiness on everyone’s behalf.
“We will dedicate these medals of dignity to him as a token of our appreciation. Thank you for this great undertaking that made it possible for people with disabilities to have the same opportunities,” De los Ángeles Ávila said.
The joyous celebration and show of affection for Fidel’s guidance and presence moved volunteers and games participants from other countries. The event concluded with the cutting of a cake which was then shared by all.
Earlier that day the Cuban delegation also gathered to hear a message of encouragement and congratulations by telephone from José Ramón Fernández, head of the Cuban Olympic Committee and adviser to the President of the Councils of State and Ministers.