Cuba, the Challenge of Modern Pentathlon in Toronto
Cuba, the Challenge of Modern Pentathlon in Toronto
Modern pentathlon has been one of the less constant sport disciplines in the history Pan-American Games. It made its debut in the first edition of the Games, held in Buenos Aires in 1951, but it wasn’t included in the program between 1967 and 1983. The sport was back in the Indianapolis edition of the Games; although it was taken out of the official schedule in 1991 and 1995. Since Winnipeg, in 1999, this discipline finally strengthened its position.
Modern pentathlon is undoubtedly one of the most complete sport disciplines, as the athletes are to compete, in the same day, in fencing, swimming, horseback riding, racing and shooting.
Cuba took its first modern pentathlon competitors to Santo Domingo Pan-American Games, in 2003. Four years later, the country won the only medal in this discipline, when Yaniel Velazquez got the silver in Rio de Janeiro. In Toronto Pan-American Games, Cuba is going to compete with four athletes (two men and two women) and the goal of both coaches and athletes is to fight for at least one medal, thus obtaining Olympic tickets.
Jose Ignacio Cruz is the main coach of the Cuban modern pentathlon team. In the Central American and Caribbean Games, held in Veracruz in 2014, his pupils collected six medals (two of each color) and they guaranteed four positions for Toronto.
“We’re presently polishing some aspects to go to the Pan-American Games. We want to be among the best athletes of the area and qualify to the Olympic Games, which entails ranking among the first five positions. We’re very optimistic and strongly believe that we can win medals. We’ll be facing athletes from the United States, Canada, Brazil and Mexico, which are world powers; but we’ve won and lost against them.”
Out of the four names to go to Toronto, three have already been defined. Yaniel Velazquez and Ricardo Figueroa, two experienced athletes, are joined by Ledy Laura Moya, the main female figure of the country. The fourth position is to be decided between two athletes.
Before competing in the Pan-American Games, the Cuban representatives are going to participate in the World Championship, to take place in Berlin. “This event is going to be very important to us, as it’s an opportunity to have our skills sharpened for Toronto”, Cruz said.
Ricardo Figueroa has been a member of the Cuban team for seven years. In Veracruz Central American Games he won three medals, one of which was golden, and Toronto represents his Pan-American debut. “We’re training hard. Horseback riding has been our main problem so far, although we have already solved it out. I do think that we can go for a medal in Canada and qualify to the Olympic Games. We know that the competition is going to be hard, but we know our rivals and everything is going to be decided at the event”, the 24-year-old athlete expressed.
Yaniel Velazquez, 28 years old, will be his teammate. Velazquez has been a member of the national team for a decade and he has participated in two editions of the Pan-American Games (2007 and 2011); furthermore, he competed in Beijing Olympic Games, where he occupied the 15th position among 36 athletes. Eight years ago, in Rio de Janeiro, Velázquez was on the podium as he ranked second, right behind US Eli Bremer.
“We’ve had some problems with our riding and swimming sessions. We’ve been in different swimming pools, which has stopped us from training other disciplines; but, anyway, I’m looking forward to winning medals and qualifying to the Olympic Games”, Velazquez underlined.
As for women, hope is on the shoulder of Ledy Laura Moya, 23 years old, the present Central American champion.
“These are going to be my second Pan-American Games, as I participated in Guadalajara, although I didn’t get any medal there. I’m going to Toronto with more experience. I’ve trained more for this edition of the Games, since we participated in the World Cup, we’ll go to Mexico and compete in the World Championship. The athletes from the United States, Canada, Brazil and Mexico are the strongest opponents in this Pan-American Games. I’ve improved my results in the combined test (800-meter race and laser gun shooting), as well as in fencing. I’m physically in great condition, with the right weight and I’m very excited because I’m working hard to be on the podium and be allowed to go to the Olympic Games”, optimistically said Moya.
The other position in the team will be decided between two young athletes. Eliani Camara is 19 years old and she says to be doing her best on a daily basis so as to join the team. “Since my first international event, Veracruz Central American Games, I’ve improved my skills when it comes to shooting, fencing and riding. If I go to the Pan-American Games, I’ll try to take my performance to a higher level and gain more experience”, she told PanamericanWorld.
The other applicant is Iliani Manzano, 20 years old. “In spite of the difficulties we’ve had with the swimming pool and transportation to the riding sessions, we’ve found alternatives. The training has been up to our expectations so far. We’re a close group, Ledy is the main figure and she supports the younger athletes, gives us pieces of advice and encourages us to keep on working. That’s great”, Manzano explained.
In Toronto, the modern pentathlon will take place at CIBC Pan-American Aquatic Center and Sports Facility. This sport only gives two sets of medals, in individual mode, for men and women.
By M. Gómez (with Y. Masó)