HAVANA TIMES — A Cuban taekwondo giant said farewell to the sport some weeks ago. I am referring to Angel Valodia Matos, Cuba’s first Olympic champion in the discipline.
He looked happy before the cameras, expressing his gratitude for the tribute paid him by the people and authorities of Holguin, promising he would never leave the city.
As they were airing the news, I turned around and gave my father the broad strokes of Valodia’s career, about which he had expressed an interest.
“He was suspended for hitting a referee during an Olympic match,” I told him, feeling my brief version of events did not do this man (whom we could well consider a hero) any justice.
I added: “It’s true that shouldn’t happen, that it’s an act of violence against a helpless person. But, if you think about it carefully, that bastard of a referee wasn’t so helpless after all. He was protected by a corrupt sports system.”
I continued: “The last thing that referee could have imagined was Valodia’s reaction. Usually, injustices in the sports world go unpunished. There’s a lot of money under the rug because of interests that are often political.”
“Valodia, however, wasn’t intimidated, not by the people nor by the fact he was in a country that was strange to him nor by the risk of throwing his sports career out the window. The anger went to his head and he struck the corrupt official with his leg.”
“With this kick, Valodia was defending his right to winning fairly, his years of training, his respect towards the sport and sportspeople and even his honor as a Cuban. Perhaps those unscrupulous people who profit at the expense of the dreams of sportspeople will now think twice about going through with their misdeeds. I have faith that this is so – otherwise, Valodia’s sacrifice will have been in vain.”