Anier Garcia: “To Reach Greatness, You Must Start Off Small”

In spite of being absent from the track for a decade now, the first Cuban Olympic champion in the 110 meters hurdles is still in quite good shape, weighing about 115 kilograms at his 1.92 m height. Speaking with Havana Times, he recognized that he misses his golden age.

“I still feel active, I dream about competing and I get angry from time to time because I can’t lose weight like I would like to,” he tells us at his apartment, on the border between Central Havana and Cerro.

“In order to reach greatness, you have to start off small, talent develops with the values you are taught at home, at school. It was really competitive back in my day, with the English, the US, Germans and even some figures from the Caribbean. Anyone could win because we were all at a similar level.”

Born in Santiago de Cuba, Anier Garcia took the spotlight when he won a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, in 2000. It wasn’t an expected medal because even though he rubbed shoulders with the elite in this sport, the athlete from Santiago still hadn’t come first at any World Championship.

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This is how he explains what happened in the capital of New South Wales: “I was really focused, I knew what I wanted and I was well trained. I had had an almost perfect year from the very beginning in the indoor tour, when my time was 7.37 seconds, the third best in the world in the 60 meters hurdles. I remember it like it was yesterday. In the third lane, at night (early morning here in Cuba), I only saw the finish line, I didn’t even see the hurdles in front of me. I spoke with my mother a little while before, like I normally did, and with her blessing I managed to finish in 13.01 seconds (smashing his personal record). My mother couldn’t watch it on TV because she was so nervous and she only listened to it on the radio. Then, she did watch the video and she still watches it from time to time, like I do, because it’s like going back in time to the happiest day in my sports career.”

HT: Before you, only Alejandro Casanas had flirted with winning an Olympic gold medal, winning two silver medals in 1976 and 1980, but yours was the first gold medal at this level…

AG: I wasn’t aware of anything when it happened, about our history or about what it meant to be an Olympic champion. It’s only today that I value it for what it is, because you realize the impact this has on the world over time. I have given conferences outside of Cuba and I feel recognized by today’s athletes, not only because of the medal, but because of the effort that this implies.

HT: You faced several problems in the 2004 Games because of injuries and you weren’t a favorite then either, but you still won a bronze medal that felt like gold…

AG: It was a dreadful year. I had had an injury since the year before which I sustained at the Pan-American Games, when I tore my biceps femoral. I felt a pull from the fourth hurdle on, but I continued on to the end and then they told me that I needed to have an operation. I didn’t want to get operated on and after several medical assessments, they decided to prescribe me 15 days of nearly total rest to see how things developed.

When I went back, the internal bleeding had miraculously stopped, and it was healing inside. So, they decided to continue on with this treatment for six months, with a personal physiotherapist, swimming sessions, etc. And with everyone’s support (who became family to me), I recovered mentally and slowly began to compete again.

I first went to mid-level events, until I managed to finish in 13.33 seconds 15 days before Athens. That’s when I told my trainer, Santiago Antunez, that I was ready. A few days later, I finished in 13.30 seconds in Zurich, and this was all before the Olympics. I ran there four times, but they were all like finals for me, until I got that bronze medal just because it was really tight (I finished in 13.20 seconds and they had to look at the photo finish. It tasted like gold and I was super happy because it was a medal won with discipline, courage.

I was going to compete in the Beijing (2008) Olympics too, but I suffered an injury to my adductor muscle in Poland, just a month beforehand. When we got to the Cuban athletics camp in Guadalajara, Spain, doctors were figuring out whether I could continue, but I myself thought that the time had come for me to bid farewell. I was only 32 years old and I could have lasted a bit longer, but I needed to be operated on this time and I preferred to retire.

HT: Dayron Robles took over from you, we could say…

AG: Just like all the trainers, I saw he had amazing potential. The young athletes would train first at the Pan-American stadium, but he would always stay on to watch the big team training, and that always struck me. I told him his moment would come because of his discipline.

Then after I retired, I stayed on as an aide to trainer Antunez for two years in which I learned a lot. I worked in Mexico for both the 110 and 400 meters hurdles with really good results because my students cut 14 seconds off their time in the 110 hurdles in the last 20 years. I continue to offer training support to new figures in Cuban hurdles.

HT: What can Anier say about Anier off the track?

AG: Music is my main hobby, I hate washing up and I love creole food. Loyalty is the thing I value most in someone. I am simple, but I also have a strong temper and sometimes I get overly angry when I don’t like something. When I was an athlete, I always had the support of my teammates such as (Javier) Sotomayor, (Ivan) Pedroso and Yoelbis Quesada, who were always with me and we still meet whenever we can. Internet keeps us connected even though we are far apart and every time we have the chance to meet again, we do.

  • Published in Sports

Brazil Thanks Cuban Doctors' Solidarity with Its People

The President of the Workers Party (PT) of Brazil, Gleisi Hoffman, thanked the government and Cuban doctors for their solidarity with her people, who today regret the withdrawal of their professionals from the More Doctors Program.

In statements to alternative media and radio stations in the southern state of Parana, Hoffman explained details of the contract signed between the Pan American Health Organization, Brazil and Cuba that brought out the initiative, created in August 2013 during the then President Dilma Rousseff's Government.

She described as disrespectful and unacceptable the position of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who issued offensive statements about the Cuban professionals who served in the most remote and humble regions of Brazil.

She called as a mockery Bolsonaro's attempt to ask for a qualification test for the Cuban doctors and argued that "Cuba sends doctors to 66 countries."

Do you know which is the only country that is demanding a competency test? Brazil; and you even commit the nonsense of saying that they are not doctors, the PT leader said.

She said that 'Cuban medicine is one of the most qualified in the world and even many US citizens go to Cuba for treatment. That is important for the elected government to know.'

Also, that future administration should know, she continued, that "the doctors who came to work in Brazil were evaluated, evaluated in the fluency of Portuguese and in the subjects of medicine by professors of our federal universities ... All these doctors underwent an evaluation."

In the five years of work of the More Doctors Program, nearly 20,000 Cuban collaborators served 113 million people in more than 3,600 municipalities in Brazil.

Cuba announced on Wednesday its withdrawal from the project because of the derogatory statements and inadmissible conditions that Bolsonaro intended to impose on the Cubans professionals once he assumes power on January 1.

I want to thank all the Cuban doctors who were here, their people who pay for the training with their work, their government for the 'solidarity and affection with which they treated our people, Hoffman said.

  • Published in World

Pastors for Peace Pay Tribute to Fidel in Santiago de Cuba

The 29th Caravan of Pastors for Peace paid tribute here on Saturday, in the patrimonial cemetery of Santa Ifigenia, to Fidel Castro, to whom the United States-Cuba friendship initiative was closely linked since 1992.

The first gesture in the city of solidarity activists, led by Gail Walker, daughter of the Reverend Lucius Walker, promoter of that crusade until his death in 2010, was extended to Jose Marti and the founding fathers of the Homeland with fresh flowers before the eternal flame of the necropolis.

Gail Walker expressed the emotions of being in this sacred place and thus fulfilling the circle of human existence because in the early hours of the morning they visited the town of Biran, in the northeastern province of Holguin, where they appreciated the beginning of everything, with the birth of the future leader.

Lazaro Exposito, first secretary of the Communist Party in this province, attended the reception to the members of this 29th edition, who will carry out an intense program with visits to museums and other points of cultural, historical, social and educational interest.

On Sunday they will meet in the emblematic town of El Cobre, 22 kilometers from this city, the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity, Patroness of Cuba, and the Monument to the Cimarron, Alberto Lescay's sculptural work that pays homage to the slave rebellion.

Encounters with religious practitioners of various denominations, exchange in the provincial government about the Cuban electoral system and a visit to the National Center for Seismological Research are part of the agenda.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba's National Assembly Rejects European Parliament's Resolution

Havana, Nov 17 (Prensa Latina) The International Relations Commission of the National Assembly of Cuba strongly has rejected the European Parliament's resolution on human rights in the island.

Through an official declaration, Cuban lawmakers consider the resolution unacceptable, as it distorts reality and is contrary to the principles of respect, equality and reciprocity contained in the Agreement on Political Dialogue and Cooperation (ADPC), signed between Havana, the European Union (EU) and its member states.

Using manipulations and alleged concerns over the current process of constitutional reform, the resolution tries to malign Cuba's image, thus hindering the successful implementation of the ADPC.

The Cuban statement insists the European Parliament document is interventionist and contrary to the principles of International Law.

'It is based on lies fabricated and disseminated by people who are not human rights advocates, who nobody knows nor our people accept, and who actually qualify as salaried agents of a foreign power,' the statement adds.

It upholds that in Cuba, unlike what happens in European societies, all human rights are promoted, protected, exercised and guaranteed.

The resolution also stresses the European Parliament has no right to judge democracy in Cuba, as it is participatory and popular, which has been shown in the recently concluded process of consultation of the draft of new Constitution.

It also states that in Cuba there is no transition and the country is immersed, by popular will, in a process of updating its model of economic and social development, whose objective is to ensure a more independent, sovereign, socialist, democratic nation, prosperous and sustainable.

  • Published in Cuba

World Tweet to Pay Tribute to Cuba's Historic Leader Fidel Castro

The example and endurance of Fidel Castro's ideas (1926-2016) in Cuba were the focus on Friday of messages from social media users on a worldwide tweet in honor of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution.

The Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) organized the meeting on its institutional Facebook and Twitter accounts, @alwayswithcuba, to commemorate on November 25 the second anniversary of the physical disappearance of the Cuban leader.

With the hashtags #AlwaysComander, #FidelCastro, #IAmFidel, #SolidarityCuba and #WeAreContunity, Cuban institutions and citizens joined the tribute with remembrances of Fidel's speeches on internationalism, solidarity and the defense of Cuba's sovereignty.

The ICAP stressed in several messages the popular and irrevocable nature of the social process developed in Cuba since January 1, 1959, with the triumph of the Revolution.

'This is the socialist and democratic revolution of the humble, with the humble and for the humble. And for this Revolution of the humble, with the humble and for the humble, we are willing to give our lives', the Cuban organization published on Twitter.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted on its @Cubaminrex account that 'the principles and dignity of the Cuban people are non-negotiable. The example of our #Commander-in-Chief guides every doctor, every Cuban and every noble revolutionary.

It also expressed the continuity of the Revolution.

In this regard, the Young Communists League (UJC) hifhlighted that Fidel Castro's ideology is valid in the new generations of Cubans.

Through its user @UJCuba, it also noted that Fidel was the best pupil of National Hero Jose Marti, and the legacy of the leader of the Cuban Revolution invites to reflect permanently on the validity of the Apostle in Fidel's thought.

The Ministry of Public Health recalled the internationalist principle always defended by the Commander in Chief.

In its account @MINSAPCuba it siad, 'In international relations we practice our solidarity with actions, not with beautiful words(...),' a fragment of one of the Cuban leader's speeches.

The Ministry of Culture agreed on @CubaCultura that 'the father of the Cuban Revolution has extended a generous hand to needy peoples and has placed solidarity and integration at the center of Cuba's foreign policy.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuban Company Acosta Danza Announces New Season

Havana, Nov 16 (Prensa Latina) Cuban company Acosta Danza announced a new season of presentations with works by choreographers from several countries and under the title Destinations.

The shows, which describe the trajectory of the group since its foundation, will take place on November 30, December 1 and 2, at the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana, under the direction of first dancer Carlos Acosta.

The program includes Carmen, Acosta's original creation basesd on the homonymous novel by the French author Prosper Mérimée, which tells the tragic love story between a gypsy and a soldier.

He will also return to Satori, a piece by the artist Raúl Reinoso, which narrates an interior journey towards spiritual enlightenment based on an original score by Pepe Gavilondo. The shows has costumes and decorations by the curatorial designer Angelo Alberto and lights by the Italian artist Fabiana Piccioli.

According to Acosta Danza, the group is governed by the most current notions of this event in the world, not only in terms of movement of the bodies but in everything related to the scene, defining it as a space for renewal, search and experimentation.

The company draws on the talent of artists from several nations in different aspects such as choreography, music, design, visual arts and audiovisual production.

The company's repertoire includes choreographies by Acosta, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Justin Peck, María Rovira, Marianela Boán, Goyo Montero, Saburo Teshigawara, Pontus Lidberg, Christopher Bruce, Jorge Crecis, among others.

  • Published in Culture

Cuba Wins Latin Grammy with the Music of Septeto Santiaguero

Las Vegas, US, Nov 16 (PL) The Septeto Santiaguero, from Cuba, and the Dominican José Alberto ''el Canario'' today hold the Latin Grammy Award for Best Traditional Tropical Album, category in which the Cuban was also nominated Omara Portuondo.

The ensemble from Cuba and the singer from Cuzco won the award with their album 'A mi qué-Tributo a los clasicos cubanos', in a section in which, apart from Portuondo, with its Omara volume, the Panamanian Rubén Blades also appeared with the group Roberto Delgado & Orquesta and the album Medoro Madera.

The nominees in that category were completed by La Sonora Santanera, from Mexico, with the play La fiesta continua; and the Venezuelan singer María Rivas, with Motivos.

We are very happy and excited, the award coincides with the fact that this time the Septeto Santiaguero could also play at the ceremony, said the director of the group, Fernando Dewar, upon receiving the gramophone at the MGM hotel in the US city of Las Vegas.

Thanks to José Alberto 'el Canario', I think this union between Dominicans and Cubans has been very good, and it is the union that has to exist among all Latinos, added the artist, who also thanked the label Egrem, Santiago de Cuba and Cuba in general.

We will continue making this music, very old, but it should not die, because it is our root and we must defend it, Dewar added.

I want to thank Cuba for allowing a Dominican to continue making good music like the son, thanks to the Septeto Santiaguero, long live Cuban music !, said, on the other hand, the Canary.

The artist also recalled that this is the second Latin Grammy they achieve together, because in 2015 they were imposed in that same category with the album No quiero llanto (Tribute to Los Compadres).

Also, the Cuban singer Aymee Nuviola, based in the United States, was the winner of the gramophone for the Best Tropical Fusion Album with the album Como anillo al dedo.

  • Published in Culture

Declaration of the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba

The Ministry of Public Health of the Republic of Cuba, committed to the solidarity and humanistic principles that have guided Cuba’s medical cooperation for 55 years, has been participating in the Program More Doctors for Brazil since its inception in August 2013.  This initiative launched by Dilma Rousseff, who was at that moment the president of the Federal Republic of Brazil, pursued the double purpose of guaranteeing medical assistance to the majority of the Brazilian people, following the principle of universal health coverage promoted by the World Health Organization.

The program had planned the inclusion of Brazilian and foreign doctors who would go to work in poor and remote areas of that country.

Cuba’s participation in this program was arranged through the Pan-American Health Organization with one distinctive feature, for it was intended to fill the vacancies left by doctors from Brazil and other foreign nations.

During these five years of work, around 20 000 Cuban cooperation workers have assisted 113 359 000 patients in more than 3 600 municipalities.  They managed to provide health coverage to a universe of up to 60 million Brazilians at the moment when they accounted for 80 per cent of all the doctors who were taking part in the program. More than 700 municipalities were able to count on a doctor for the first time ever.

The work of Cuban doctors in areas of extreme poverty, in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Salvador de Bahia and the 34 Special Indigenous Districts, particularly in Amazonia, was largely recognized by the federal, state and municipal governments of that country and its population, 95 per cent of which expressed their acceptance, according to a survey carried out by the Federal University of Minas Gerais at the request of the Ministry of Health of Brazil.

On September 27, 2016, the Ministry of Public Health, in an official statement issued on a day close to the expiration date of the agreement and amidst the events associated to the legislative and judicial coup d’ etat against president Dilma Rousseff, announced that Cuba “would continue to honor its agreement with the Pan-American Health Organization for the implementation of the Program More Doctors, provided that the guarantees offered by local authorities were maintained”, something that has been so far respected.

Jair Bolsonaro, president elect of Brazil, who has made direct, contemptuous and threatening comments against the presence of our doctors, has declared and reiterated that he will modify the terms and conditions of the Program More Doctors, in full disregard of the Pan-American Health Organization and the agreement reached by this organization with Cuba, since he has questioned the qualification of our doctors and has conditioned their permanence in the program to a process of validation of their titles and established that contracts will only be signed on an individual basis.

The announced modifications impose conditions that are unacceptable and fail to ensure the guarantees that had been previously agreed upon since the beginning of the Program, which were ratified in 2016 with the re-negotiation of the Terms of Cooperation between The Pan-American Health Organization and the Ministry of Health of Brazil and the Cooperation Agreement between the Pan-American Health Organization and the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba.  These unacceptable conditions make it impossible to maintain the presence of Cuban professionals in the Program.

Consequently, in the light of this unfortunate reality, the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba has decided to discontinue its participation in the Program More Doctors and has informed so to the Director of the Pan-American Health Organization and the political leaders of Brazil who founded and defended this initiative.

The decision to bring into question the dignity, professionalism and altruism of Cuban cooperation workers who, with the support of their families, are currently offering their services in 67 countries is unacceptable. During the last 55 years, a total of 600 000 internationalist missions have been accomplished in 164 nations, with the participation of 400 000 health workers who, in quite a few cases, have fulfilled this honorable task more than once. Their feats in the struggle against the Ebola virus in Africa, blindness in Latin America and the Caribbean and cholera in Haiti as well as the participation of 26 brigades of the International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disaster Situations and Great Epidemics “Henry Reeve” in Pakistan, Indonesia, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Venezuela, among other countries, are worthy of praise.

In the overwhelming majority of the missions that have been accomplished, all expenses have been covered by the Cuban government.

Likewise, 35 613 health professionals from 138 countries have been trained in Cuba at absolutely no cost as an expression of our solidarity and internationalist vocation.

All Cuban cooperation workers have preserved their posts and their full salary in Cuba, together with all due labor and social benefits, just as the rest of the workers of the National Health System.

The experience of the Program More Doctors for Brazil and Cuba’s participation in it show that it is indeed possible to structure a South-South Cooperation Program under the auspices of the Pan-American Health Organization in order to promote the achievement of its goals in our region.  The United Nations Development Program and the World Health Organization have described it as the main example of good practices in triangular cooperation and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.

The peoples from Our America and from all over the world know that they will always be able to count on the solidarity and humanistic vocation of our professionals.

The Brazilian people, who turned the Program More Doctors into a social achievement and, from the very beginning, has trusted Cuban doctors, recognized their virtues and appreciated the respect, sensitivity and professionalism with which they have assisted them, will understand who are to be held responsible for our doctors’ not being able to continue offering their fraternal contribution in that country.

Havana, November 14, 2018.

  • Published in Specials
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