The Havana people, Cubans, we still know little of triathlon. It is not in our blood, simply. Blunt truth that can change over the years, when its athletes who fill more and more the Cuban territory to delight us with an unsurpassed waste of energy.
If that finally happens and the Ibero-American Triathlon Championships in Havana is not merely a test, then the Cubans will fulfill the wishes, for example, of Marcel Zamora, a Spanish that competed for more than four hours and when he crossed the goal he left us a message of attention.
“The Cuban people must turn in a little more, especially in the half marathon and the marathon, which is the hardest part, support motivates people and gives a different flavor to the tournament. I imagine that the cold has left many at home, but in other years I hope it to be different, “said the Iberian, victor in the middle distance as expected for his tremendous international awards.
Yes, because although Havana and Cuba are not associated too much to what is worth and brightest of triathlon, the call of the island sparked interest in many corners of the planet to the point that 30 countries were represented in the Caribbean capital with 372 athletes participating.
Among them Zamora, who beyond his words to encourage national fans to participate, did not hesitate to confess his appreciation for the circuit and conditions of the event, held in unusual conditions due to the timid cold, wind and rain, elements that are not usual in the climate of the archipelago.
“Some said the water was freezing, but I felt it super good, very comfortable temperature in the channels of the Marina Hemingway. The bike can go excellently, the road is in very good condition, but later in the race it was very windy, too much moisture, and for those coming from Europe, where it is colder, harder for us, “said Zamora exclusively for OnCuba.
“Everything has been very well organized, logistics, healthcare, organizers have struggled and came out with a very good category event, you can earn in competitive level as the years pass and more athletes grow interested in credentials here. At least I take that impression, have to see the criteria for those coming behind, because whenever the leader´s conditions are more favorable, “said the winner of the middle distance, recognized worldwide for its five wins in a row at the Nice Ironman, France and its two Embrunman titles, in the French Alps.
His was the show of the day on Sunday, when he did 1.9 miles of swimming, 90 in cycling and half marathon (21.1 km) in 4: 20.56 hours, 17 minutes lead over his closest pursuer, Costa Rica Ernesto Espinoza, another old friend of Cuba, since he participate in a 1998 Pan American Championships in Varadero.
However, if we talk about a showoff of energy and strength, indomitable will, it is mandatory to mention he participants in the long distance (3.8 kilometer swim, 180 in the bike race and 42.2 run), especially the winners, protagonists of a great solo effort only achievable by true men and women of iron.
The Argentine Juan Manuel Ascope was the winner, despite the voice taken by depletion of 10: 41.19 hours of competition, only asked for some water when he crossed the finish line and started to talk to the press, to whom he gave his word to return in 2016 to defend his crown.
“Havana is a privileged place for this activity, as a triathlete I knew everything could be spectacular. The part of the swim was very pretty, with clear waters and calm in the Marina. Cycling I thought it was flat but has some very hard slopes which are tiring, and on the run people have come to give encouragement, “said the Argentine.
“The collaborators, volunteers, had a very good performance, very efficient, was one in every street and didn’t miss a thing, very positive detail because it was possible to link the people with the organization of the competition”, reported Ascope, who starred a tremendous comeback in the final stretch of the race.
“I did not expect to finish first, (Hector) Fonseca, the second place, looked very well, with good advantage to win. Also, I had to walk sections due to fatigue, but on the fourth lap of the marathon adrenaline, desire, helped me increase the pace and finish first, “said the South American.
On the preparation for an event of such magnitude Ascope explained how complicated it becomes food and train three different modalities. “At parties I drank water and ate very little, like a normal training day. And ten days before traveling to Havana I lowered the intensity and since Tuesday I didn’t do anything to get here as rested and relaxed as possible.
“My forte is not swimming, biking and running are much better for me, I do cut differences in these tests because the water I almost always go out in seconds platoons, four or five minutes away from the leaders, as it happened here. But after taking the pace and can regain lost ground, although I must improve in the water, “said the 30 years old Argentine.
But Juan Manuel Ascope was not the only titan in the Havana adventure; in the women US Kathleen Smith won late at night, when almost everyone was in retreat. In addition to Smith, only two other women completed the journey, the Mexican Tabata Carrasco Pinal and Spanish Alicia García, the latter 14 hours after starting the event at the Marina Hemingway.
Also among women but in the middle distance, French Matilde Batailler won in 5: 16.03 hours, escorted by Mauren Solano of Costa Rica and Brazilian Graciella Renzzo.
A little less strenuous, but equally demanding was the sprint test on Saturday, in which emerged triumphant American Renee Tomlin and Mexican Rodrigo Gonzalez, who aspire to raise their level ahead of the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
“Being one of the leading athletes in the Cuban championship means a lot to me, more because it is the first time I travel here and also are neighbors, very close countries, is really special,” said Tomlin in conversation with OnCuba.
“The conditions are perfect, the circuit was very simple, fast, and everything went perfectly. The weather was perfect too, had threatened rain but it didn’t fall and we completed the race very comfortably. That’s my strong point and I have pretty high level on the bike, but in general practices are very strong in each of the modalities, “said the northern athlete.
Tomlin was ahead of her compatriot Kirsten Casper and Spanish Tamara Gomez, a 23-year old girl that will return to Cuba, “if not to compete because of vacation, but certainly I will return.
“It’s the first time I’m in Cuba, I really like Havana, which is what I’ve seen. The circuit has been fairly easy, especially the part of the bike, which is usually more complicated, but not here, the route is flat, wide, very fast, excellent, “said Tamara, a swimmer since age five.
“It was quite hot and humid, which always hits the danger of dehydration. In Spain I spend summer in hot places, something similar to the climate of Cuba, and I am more adapted, that is why I didn’t feel so exhausted, “she concluded.
Meanwhile, Mexican Rodrigo González, winner among men confessed he expected most severe circumstances. “Very nice competition I had a very different expectation of how the race would be. When I heard Cuba I thought it was going to be sunny, very hot, came prepared for a radiant sun, cap and everything to run, but it was different altogether, not even ended up with two bottles of water on the bike.
“This is so exciting sport, you can change all of a sudden, you cannot control the weather. But in the end was not cold, and it was a very exciting experience to run with the wind and rain, “said the Aztec, passionate about football and basketball, and nothing close to the water at an early age, to the point that he just knew how to float.
Starting point for Cuba
Contrary to what one might think, Cuba took an active part in the contest, where the vast majority of national preselection competed and fans of the discipline, both young talent and veterans.
At the individual level Michel Gonzalez, Leslie Amat and Lisandra Hernandez, bronze medalist at the 2014 Central Veracruz highlighted, who now failed to be included on the podium but got valid points for the Pan American Qualifier ranking of Toronto.
They will continue their preparation and also the continental lid and other tournaments under international calendar, aspire the championship in Havana to repeat, which organizers said is already guaranteed.
Overall, the Organization of Huelva CD XXI Action by the Cultural Society José Martí, two of the main organizers of the event, signed contracts with the International Triathlon Union for carrying over this event in the three years, in order to “create an organizational infrastructure and equipment to enable the Cuban Federation to ask for the hosting of one of the stages of the World Cup.
This would have a direct impact on the development of triathlon in Cuba, Where there is at least a circuit praised by the hundreds of participants this year.
“The competition was good, men that are located in the top 100 in the world rankings despite being in the second or third level of their country came, and most will take with them a positive criteria that will help us to keep it in the coming years,” said Michel Gonzalez, leading exponent of the Cuban national team.
“The important thing is to establish the circuit as a regular part of the international calendar, a tremendous opportunity for domestic athletes, many of whom have neither 10 triathlons at this level. Precisely because it is so valuable opportunity to confront opponents with tournament experience of universal category, “added the Cuban.
“This is a possible dream, realizable, because this circuit is very similar to some of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, rivaling, hopefully athletes liked it and push to return to other commitments” he concluded.