Â«The Forging of WillpowerÂ» is the title of a unique book. It portrays the importance of will and the value of determination in this first-time compilation on the history of physically challenged athletes in Cuba.
The presentation of the book was held on Tuesday afternoon at the José Martí National Library in Havana. Its author, the photographer/reporter Armando Hernández López, expressed his gratitude for having been able to make his dream of writing the book come true.
A panelists, including the president of the Cuban Association for People with Disabilities and the deputy head of the National Association for the Deaf, referred to the many programs existing in Cuba for the physically disabled and the importance attached to their integration into society.
Arnaldo Rivero, chairman of the Teaching Department of the Cuban National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER), mentioned the possibility of writing a second volume covering the history of this sports movement prior to the Revolution and during its first decade, since the present book only covers from 1973 to the present day.
Â«We are very grateful for the publication of this book without which the work in sports by the physically challenged would be almost unknownÂ» said Enrique Cepeda, the six-time triple jump and long jump champion, multi-Paralympics champion and glory of Cuban sports.
During the 1970s, Dr. Rodrigo Alvarez Cambra, by then Chief of the National Group of Rehabilitation and Director of the Frank Pais National Orthopedic Hospital, expressed his interest in seeing physically challenged people taking part in sports as therapy for their rehabilitation and for their moral and psychological recovery.
Therefore, as written by Alvarez Cambra in the foreword of the book, the physically challenged started to train in the hospitals fields, beginning with paraplegics and amputees; later a gymnasium was opened to help make them fit.
The support of Celia Sanchez was also important for the achievement of this goal. She provided two Giron omnibuses that were upgraded with two elevators for wheel chairs and the basketball court was refurbished.
Â«Step by step,Â» as it is pointed out in the foreword, Â«bow and arrow, table tennis, shot putting and various track and field events were included. With the cooperation of INDER participation in the Pan-American Games of México and Peru was possible. People who were blind or had other visual or hearing problems participated in the Toronto Olympic in 1976.
South Africa, continued Alvarez Cambra, participated in this event, where apartheid was seen at its lowest when only white athletes from that country participated, as black servants helping them with their wheel chairs and other equipment. During the inaugural parade there were various protests by several African countries which walked out of the event. The Cuban delegation also abandoned the competitions in an act of solidarity.
Â«Upon our return, it was clear that INDER had to take action with regard to this activity. The Sports Federation for physically challenged people was then registered by the Cuban Olympic Committee for it to support it and expand it. History has shown that was the right decision,Â» said Cambra.