An Inspiring Journey: Cuban Athlete Crowned Champion at Pan American Games
An extraordinary Cuban athlete, who embarked on a treacherous journey through the jungle, desert, and even a minefield, has achieved a remarkable feat by winning the decathlon championship at the Pan American Games in Chile.
A Triumph of Perseverance: Santiago Ford’s Remarkable Victory
Santiago Ford, a 27-year-old athlete, secured his seventh gold medal on Tuesday, representing the host country. The final test, a grueling 1,500 meter race, marked his glorious moment of triumph. Overwhelmed with emotions, Ford shed tears of joy as he proudly waved the Chilean flag and took a victory lap, basking in the applause of the ecstatic crowd.
A Reflection on Sacrifice: Memories of a Challenging Journey
As Ford approached the finish line, he deliberately slowed down, allowing his mind to wander back to the arduous path he had traversed to reach this pinnacle of success. In an interview with the esteemed portal Olympics, he revealed, “My mind drifted to the past, to those nights crossing the desert, enduring the bitter cold and relentless hunger. All those sacrifices flooded my thoughts, reminding me of the journey I undertook to fulfill my dream.”
A Leap of Faith: Leaving Cuba for a New Beginning
In 2018, Ford bid farewell to his homeland, leaving behind a five-year stint with the Cuban national athletics team. Despite achieving a commendable fourth place in the decathlon at the Under 18 World Athletics Championships in Poland in 2016, he felt unrecognized and unacknowledged. “In Cuba, only gold or silver brings recognition and attention. Otherwise, you remain unnoticed. It’s a challenging situation,” Ford shared with Emol, a renowned news portal.
A Perilous Journey: Overcoming Obstacles to Reach Chile
In September 2018, Ford embarked on a perilous journey, boarding a plane to Guyana and continuing his odyssey to Chile, spanning over six thousand kilometers. He encountered numerous hurdles along the way, enduring a ten-day wait in Guyana to enter Brazil. From there, he braved the jungle, traveling in a truck to reach Manaus. Subsequently, he embarked on another plane to Peru, where he embarked on a grueling road trip across the country.
A Test of Endurance: Battling Dehydration, Hunger, and Cold
During his arduous journey, Ford faced severe challenges. He recounted, “I spent a day and a half traversing the entirety of Peru until I reached Tacna. I was dehydrated, famished, and the biting cold was taking a toll on my health.” Moreover, he encountered an unfortunate incident when the police stopped him on a bus and demanded the only $20 he had left in his wallet, threatening deportation. Fortunately, he had hidden another $10 in his cellphone case, enabling him to continue his journey and eventually reach the Chilean border.
A Brush with Danger: Navigating a Treacherous Path
Undeterred by the challenges, Ford embarked on a solitary trek through the desert, following the train line in the early hours of the morning. Constantly vigilant, he frequently glanced back, wary of potential patrols. It was only later that he discovered he had unknowingly traversed a dangerous minefield.
A New Beginning in Chile: Overcoming Adversity
Upon arriving in Chile, Ford faced numerous obstacles. Initially, he received support from two trainers while working as a security guard at a nightclub. However, the demanding schedule became unsustainable. Furthermore, the arrival of the pandemic brought all activities to a standstill, further impacting his journey.
A Proud Citizen: Embracing Chilean Identity
In 2021, Ford participated in the National Athletics Championships and emerged victorious in the triple jump event. This triumph served as a turning point, prompting him to pursue Chilean citizenship. In January of this year, he was granted the cherished citizenship, solidifying his bond with the country he now calls home. “Arriving in Chile was an epic moment. It was a dream I held onto from day one. I am grateful to everyone who supported me in my quest for nationality, allowing me to proudly represent the colors of Chile,” Ford expressed with gratitude.
A Life Transformed: Family, Love, and a Bright Future
Having settled in Chile, Ford has built a fulfilling life. He is happily married and has a child who is approaching their first birthday. After enduring immense sacrifices, Ford feels an overwhelming sense of pride, knowing that his journey has not been in vain. “This medal carries countless names. If I were to mention them all, I would never finish. My wife, my son, my parents, my coaches—they are all part of this achievement. Thank you, Chile, for the opportunity to be here. I leave you filled with happiness,” Ford emphasized.