An Incredible Phoenix Story

By Osmel Almaguer

Maikel Sanchez is back playing volleyball.
Maikel Sanchez is back playing volleyball.

The phoenix resurged from its own ashes. The root of this myth belonged in the depths of the psyches of ancient humankind, where there still exist sites unexplored by contemporary science.

This particular myth, however, does not emerge through a mechanical correlation, crude associations or analogies, but through the poetic passion and spontaneously religious spirit that bygone civilizations used to provoke certain phenomena, like the dawn or twilight.

And that is how Cuban volleyball player Maikel Sanchez returned, thousands of years since the re-emergence of the Phoenix from among its ashes.

“The Russian” (as he is known, due to his maternal lineage) was one of the most promising figures on the Cuban men’s volleyball team until he suffered a back injury during the Pan-American Games in Río de Janeiro in 2007.

Maikel was about to be added to that extensive list of athletes who, for one reason or another, abandoned sports in Cuba. It was not, however, the continuation of his career that was at stake, but his ability to walk.

Medical specialists announced the drama to the press. The more than two-meter tall giant, in otherwise excellent physical condition, appeared out of place in the photos of him confined to a wheelchair, though he dealt with his precarious situation with honor and dignity.

Maikel Sanchez spikes for Cuba.

The sun was exactly on the other side of the planet, as the most intense nights cloaked the athlete, who only seemed hopeful thanks to a ray of moonlight offered to him by his doctors.

This is the first part of the story, united to the second only by the logical thread of continuity.

That fact remained in my memory; it was only that an increasingly thick layer of dust (the dust of time) and of daily activity was covering it up.

Recently the face of Maikel Sánchez reappeared in the media, but not as a victim left in a wheelchair, but as a phoenix that had resurged from among its own ashes, ready to inspire the Cuban team with his feat.

This success belongs to the will of a person, but also to the quality and dedication of the island’s physicians, whose prestige is one of the ringing truths in today’s world.

For those that have appreciated the episode from a distance, and for those who like me who lack sufficient medical training, what happened appears encircled in an aureole of mysticism.

I picture the Russian as an enormous luminous bird whose heat vivifies our wills, whose light inspires us, and whose flight reaches the heavens of champions.