It is never late to see how you have impacted a country and people. After more than 12 years, a friend, a very recognized Cuban reporter of my got in touch with me through another friend and interviewed me and this has impacted me. I’m very graceful and thankful for her time to write this article. She was able to write everything very tasteful and honest. It is a great resume of my story. Hope you like it!
Here is the translation. Go to the article to see pictures and videos. Enjoy it!. Xo… Link below
The final years of the 80s passed, and Cuban gymnastics trained in a facility located in the Prado habanero, a place that today belongs to the prestigious National School of Ballet.
There, I had the opportunity to meet two girls, two future talents. They were so tiny that the cameraman told me: “Charge them, I’m going to shoot you a plane,” which unfortunately I lost.
These girls, now made up and upright, married, with children, maintained their friendship with me over the years. Of the blonde we spoke recently: the spiritual Leyanet González, big figure of that sport in the Island; the brunette was Annia Portuondo, today Annia Hatch, last name with the winner, no less, than two Olympic silver medals as part of the American squad.
“I was born in Guantánamo 39 years ago. The gymnastic bug was born with me, I was 4 years old when I practiced it. I was in the Cuban national team from 1984 to 1997 “.
Of course of these 13 years you keep unforgettable moments, some very good, and others regretfully as bad as the one that practically forced you to emigrate. It is not like this?
“Of my great memories one is my union with Leyanet. They were years of pure and sincere friendship, when one helped the other. We were always glad of the triumph of the two, and we wept when it was not so. We were girls, then adolescents and young people. A lifetime. Friendship with Leya is one of my great moments. ”
And sporty, what guards of the many that you had?
“Well, when I received a 10 (at that time the maximum classification that was conferred in today known as artistic gymnastics) on the jumping horse in the Central American and Caribbean Games of Mexico 90.
“I did not want to believe it but it was a perfect leap, for the story. Leyanet was happier than I was. She and I competed as if we were one, we went to many competitions together, and together we cheered up as I told you. ”
Do you remember any other special moment?
“So many. We were both very good at the World Cup for specialties in 1996 in Puerto Rico. What a way to enjoy our performances and that of our partners! There I achieved my Olympic qualification that took me away. ”
“Various. The tremendous preparation that Leya and I made, we were so small, to compete in the Pan American Games in Havana, which took place in the sub-district of Santiago, and it turns out that an appendicitis appeared that deprived me of winning. At 12 I could have done it. I have always trusted a lot in myself and I would have done it. To top it off Leyanet was injured in the hands free. How she cried! But I who was there said to him: ‘God always gives second chances; you will see that he does not forget us. ‘”
That’s how it was, but first I want to go back a bit and ask the beautiful woman today about her beginnings and her first coaches.
“The brothers Suce and Isabel discovered me so to speak; although everything I have been I owe to the same who trained Leyanet, René Samson, who at the moment is also out of Cubabuscando new horizons.
“Samson educated me, taught me how to walk through life, took me to the top of the world, led me to the classification of the Atlanta Olympic Games 96, after my performance in the World Cup by specialties of Puerto Rico 96. He took me to the world elite and to classify to the Olympic Games of the 96, to which I did not attend because the Federation preferred to send to the masculine equipment, and for me there was no money “.
It seems to me that it was yesterday when the then president of INDER, Reynaldo González made known the absurd news. I can not forget that of all the journalists present, my colleague Carlos Alberto González and I defended fiercely the presence of Annia in Atlanta. But, as almost always happened, we were not heard.
“Samson was unique, he was the best coach of Cuban women’s gymnastics. And although he did not go with me to the 2004 Athens Games, I wearing the United States jersey, my two silver medals were his. He made me. I only continued his work, of course with the northern preparers. That could have been achieved by Cuba, but I was prevented. I’ll never forget it. ”
The World Championship for Specialties in Puerto Rico in that Olympic year, prior to Atlanta were not your only successes. You and Leyanet were throwing all the equipment on top of it, even though she acknowledged that you were over it.
“I do not want to say it like that. I was 7 times national champion, from 1990 to 1997; 2, regional monarch (practically sweeping in Mexico 90 and Ponce 93); 3 medals in the Pan American Mar del Plata 95 in balance beam and by team; fifth in fixed bar in the World-wide one of Birmingham 93; and bronze in the jumping horse of the already mentioned World-wide by Specialties of Puerto Rico in the 96. ”
Many specialists present in the contest boricua assure that the judges benefited the recognized Rumanians Gina Gogean and Simona Amânar to leave in the third to the best execution of the girl of the Guaso. Remember that gymnastics is a sport of appreciation.
In addition I obtained other preseas and good locations in competitions by Europe and America, including the Juvenile Games in the United States “.
The disappointment of not attending the Olympic event led to a very early retirement
“I made the decision to leave the sport at age 17, but it was not only because of that, but because my beloved coach had stayed after the World Cup in Puerto Rico. I had no incentive. No one was going to train me like him, besides what INDER had done to me.
“I also wanted to leave the sport up, winning, as I did. I would have been the first Cuban to win a medal in a gymnastics fair in the Olympic Games and that did not take it from me, but a whole town, a whole sport.
“Not going to the 96 Olympics was very sad, but taught me to be patient, to wait the right time and right place. It gave me the strength to know what to do when I had the second opportunity to join the United States team and achieve a goal that I had dreamed of and that I could materialize: my biggest sporting desire, to compete in an Olympic Games ”
You leave Cuba with your mom but you do not start training. Because I know of the number of American athletes with class to integrate that Olympic team and, nevertheless, a position was yours.
How does Annia Portuondo get to stardom?
“I joined the USA team in 2001. After being retired for 5 years. I had to qualify for the national ones that are very strong competitions, of a very high level. I was three times champion in jumping horse in the Nationals of 2002, 2003 and 2004.
I won in jump and free The 2003 Visa Cup. I was a starting player for the 2003 Orbe Championship, up to my 2 goals at the Athens Games. ”
So you were part of the Cuban national squad for 11 years and the American, 3, already a veteran.
Did you get excited listening to the American anthem, watching a flag that was not yours rise?
“I will never forget my cradle, the place where I started my career, I enjoyed, I was happy, I had great friends that I maintain today. I cried with my hymn, with my flag, but the United States gave me a new opportunity and yes, I enjoyed many my medals with my new companions.
“It is gratifying that they recognize you, do not crush you. They accepted me, it was one more. They gave me a second chance. In addition, he had always observed American athletes and admired them and took as role models, for his extreme discipline while still being happy young people. Being part of the USA team was incredible and an honor. Now it’s my country, my home, I’m very grateful. ”
Do you agree that if they could do it, they could compete for Cuba?
What do you do now, what do you do?
“I have a non-profit company to help athletes in the Caribbean and USA, I teach gymnastics in different facilities.
But above all, I am a mother of two children: a 2-year-old female, Faith and a one-month-old boy, Andronicus. ”
What are the female figures of the universal gymnastics that you have always admired?
“The Romanian Nadia Comăneci and the Americans Simone Biles and Dominique Dawes, each a milestone marking different generations of gymnasts, examples to be followed by the new figures.”
When one has just written these lines, she does not know whether to laugh or cry, because every time my Cuba loses an athlete that way, by disability or God knows what, what gives is desires is to cry, is not it?