Panama, Casco Viejo,
Casco Antiguo, San Felipe
I was at my office, trying to start my Monday as usual, when a huge crowd of kids came running and screaming… “Saladino! Saladino! Canguro! Canguro!”. The crowd jumped away, singing and screaming Irving´s Saladino´s name. I suddenly realized, our Panamanian Kangaroo was supposed to jump this morning. I open the internet, and there it is!! he just won gold with an 8.34mt2 jump.
For most countries used to sending people to these competitions it is a good thing, but most of their habitants don´t think too much about it. I´m sure in the US people are very proud of Phelps and other athletes, and they should. I saw a picture of their leading female swimmer and I was truly intimidated by the powerful figure and sharp performance. But, even if things are never easy and I´m sure they spend a lot of time looking for economic support, truth is, they probably have 90% more support there and better trainning and equipment than we have ever had here.
And still Panama has produced some great sport figures such as Duran (the most famous at this point), the Valdes brothers, and Mariano Rivera. But whenever the Olympics came, the delegation was very thin. The athletes didn´t have (and still don´t) any money to get their trainners there, they had to get everything by themselves, usually their equipment was (and is) very old and worst of all (our esgrima girl almost couldn´t compete because her sword was too old and rusty. She had to buy one there), the funds from the institute of sports where to finance the trip of a bunch of bureocrats that had nothing to do and didn´t really care for the athletes themselves.
But perseverance is an incredible thing! This year, all of our athletes, despite their bad equipment, half trainning, lost baggage, no money, last minute scandals, all of them not only surpassed their personal marks, but managed to get re classified into better positions. But the big cherry on the pie was Irving Saladino, a talented guy from one of the poorest parts of Panama, Colon. This province is the craddle of most of our athletes and sport figures. Knowing Colonenses (my best friend is from this province) this week will be a huge festivity. Irving got the first gold medal ever in an Olympic game for Panama by jumping the lenght of my office.
I´m sure tomorrow´s paper will have a wonderful big size poster of him at the front page and suddenly everyone will run to hug and kiss him. But this was not done in a day, so my respects go not only to himself but to his parents who supported him all the way and probably paid or raised funds for him. To all the athletes that managed to even get there in a display of perseverance and discipline. Congratulations!!!!
I hope the next one comes from Casco Viejo. They are surely practicing jumps right now!