More than coaches: five fathers of Cuban sport in the Olympic Games

Photos: RL Hevia

Text: Raul del Pino

Immortal names such as Teófilo Stevenson, Alberto Juantorena, Regla Torres, Idalys Ortiz, Mijaín López shine in the firmament of Cuba in the Olympic Games. They and so many other stars have filled the Caribbean island with glory in the under the five rings competition. But behind the prominence of each athlete, in the shadow of each medal, his trainers emerge, in many cases father figures and true architects of the triumphs. The sculptors who, with their wisdom and guidance, lead their pupils along the path of success.

And just as there are dozens of Cuban athletes who have left their mark forever etched in universal Olympicism, there are another handful of coaches among the most prolific of their respective specialties worldwide, to the point that they are considered pillars of success. that the Cuban sports movement experienced for many years on a planetary scale. Next Cuba News 360 proposes a Top-5 of the Antillean coaches with an exquisite sheet of results in the Olympic Games, but we leave it to you to arrange the order you prefer. In the end, they all carry the label of cracks.

Alcides Sagarra (boxing) More than a coach, Professor Sagarra can be considered the creator of the shipyard where the “flagship” of Cuban sport would later be forged. Under his aegis, Cuba became the main power of amateur boxing in the world and this is attested to by the thirty Olympic gold medals in more than four decades that he was at the head of the national squad. That enduring image of Teófilo Stevenson raising his hand after winning gold at the 1974 World Cup in Havana or his unwavering resolve when he withdrew the national team from the Houston World Cup in 1999 is still fresh in the memories of many fans. .

Eugenio George (women’s volleyball) Unfortunately, he died a decade ago, and today Cuban volleyball feels his absence more than ever. Founder of the Cuban School of discipline and the mastermind behind the extraordinary successes of the women’s team, without a doubt the greatest achieved by any collective sport on the island. Three Olympic titles and the same number of world titles, as well as many other titles in World Cups and Grand Prix, speak for themselves of the dominance exercised at a global level by the legendary Morenas del Caribe of which, in addition to being their technical director, he was their father. .


Ronaldo Veitía (women’s judo) Owner of an unmatched charisma, capable of motivating and at the same time demanding the maximum from his disciples. Among Cuba’s most iconic moments in the Olympic Games, some bear the seal of Veitía, with her extravagant expressions and celebrations on the edge of the tatami. Forger of more than 20 medalists under the five rings, including five monarchs, Cuban women’s judo has never been the same without him. Passed away at the end of 2022, he always had the love and admiration of Cubans, of his sports followers around the world and, above all, of the generation of women that he guided to the pinnacle of sport.

Santiago Antúnez (short hurdles) There is no more seductive test in athletics than the 110 meter hurdles. The excellence of the sprinter combined with exquisite technique to cross each obstacle with the greatest delicacy and at the same time power possible. The trainers of this specialty also become artists who sculpt the figures of their pupils until they find perfection. Of course, not everyone achieves them, but Antúnez did with Anier García and Dayron Robles, whom he led to immortality in Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008, respectively. But his wisdom as a coach did not only remain in the fences, Antúnez was the technical head of Cuban athletics for several years and under his guard Cuba achieved its best Olympic harvest in Barcelona 1992.


Yeah Pedro Val (Greco-Roman wrestling) If in recent years Raúl Trujillo has managed to maintain his legacy on a stellar level, Pedro, as he was simply known in the sports world, was the one who converted Cuban Greco wrestling into an international bastion. Not by chance, at least one of his pupils reigned in six of the seven Olympic Games held between Barcelona 1992 and Rio de Janeiro 2016. Legends such as Héctor Milián, Filiberto Azcuy and Mijaín López were among the most outstanding students of he. His mastery as a coach contributed to Cuba winning 48 medals in world championships between 1982 and 2017. After more than four decades at the forefront of the discipline, he died in 2018 at the still young age of 65.

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