By Jorge Navarro Torres.
Camagüey, located some 500 km east of Havana, was founded on February 2nd, 1514, and it is a region of wide plains, where the cattle breeding has been a fundamental factor in its economic development. But Camagüey has also been the cradle of several champions who have achieved outstanding results in the history of the Olympic Games.
The first presence of local sportsmen in such games was in London 1948, attended by sprinter Rafael Fortún, who had won in several occasions in Central American and Pan-American games in 100 and 200 mts. Basket ball players Francisco Lavernia, Federico López and Mario Omen also went to London’s summer Olympics.
Fortún repeated his attendance in the summer rendezvous in Helsinki 1952, and in both occasions England and Finland, the Camagueyan classified for the semifinalists in the sprints.
After the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, the first athlete of this territory who participates in the Olympic competition was boxer Fermín Espinosa in the 54 kg division.
Espinosa was the first Cuban boxer who won a bout in a tournament of this kind, although an injure in his right hand impeded him to compete in the quarterfinals.
The first medalist born in this province was Oscar Varona, member of the team Cuba of basketball, that captured the bronze medal in Munich, Germany, in the summer of 1972.
Four years later in Montreal, Canada, Leonel Marshall, Lorenzo Martínez and Victoriano Sarmiento snared bronze medals as part of the volleyball team men.
In Moscow 80, the legendary boxer Adolfo Horta, won the silver medal in the 60 kg division, after failing in the bout versus German Rudi Fink.
During his career as a fighter, Horta, known as the man of the “total boxing”, won the world titles in three different weights: 54; 57 and 60 kg, plus other important international tournaments.
Volleyball players Mireya Luis, Tania Ortiz and Idalmis Gato members of the “Spectacular Caribbean browns” and baseball player Luis Ulacia became gold medallist at Barcelona 1992. While, the silver medal in the foil competition went to fencer Oscar García and his team.
Héctor Herrera in the 4 x 400 relay race captured the silver, and Joel Lamela, in 4 x 100 got the bronze medal.
When the world celebrated the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympic games in Atlanta, United States, Mireya, and Idalmis repeated their feats, while Yumilka Ruiz joined the women club of volleyball stars.
Together with Ulacia, Miguel Caldés and Omar Luis Martínez won the gold medal in baseball that year.
The Greek-Roman wrestler Filiberto Azcuy was the king of his division (74 kg), while Oscar García, member of the foil team men got the bronze medal in this occasion.
So, the Camagueyan athletes flew to Sydney, Australia, where volleyball women ranked first to mark Mireya Luis’ and Idalmis Gato’s consecration after capturing their third gold medals in the summer games, while Yumilka Ruiz, was champion for a second time.
The gladiator of the Greco-Roman style Filiberto Azcuy, now competing in a new division (69 kg) repeated the performance he did four years ago, and like him boxer Jorge Gutiérrez (75 kg) also wins the gold.
Canoeist Ibrahim Rojas gets a deserved silver medal as part of the duet in 1 000 meters, this time Cuba’s baseball team gets the second position, so Luis Ulacia and Miguel Caldés, stars of the Camagüyan fans are the Olympics number two.
To sum up, the athletes from Camagüey have gotten eight Olympic titles, four silver medals and four of bronze.
As the reader can see, the deed of Camagüey, a province of some 800 000 inhabitants, surpasses even the performance of many countries.
Today the athletes of this Cuban region have placed all their hopes in increasing Camagüey’s Olympic medals standing in Athens, Greece.