Without a federation, coaches or adequate spaces, it is impossible for Cuban skaters to compete in the qualifying tournaments for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Yamil Lage/AFP.
Cuban skateboarder Ariel Gomez and many others like him are hoping for a much brighter future for their sport.
After years in the shadows, with neither means nor official recognition, the skateboarders are hoping that skateboarding will finally be accepted at home when it becomes an Olympic event in Tokyo next year.
"In 2020, skateboard is going to the Olympics in Japan and that is motivating us to find ways to improve and perhaps it will encourage the government to take a little more interest in us," says 28-year-old Gomez, who trains in the homemade skatepark of Ciudad Libertad, in the west of Havana.
Gifts from abroad
This non-recognition brings other obstacles, notably the cost. In a country where the average monthly salary is around $50 (Dhs184), there is no shop to buy skateboard material while prices can be high on the black market — a skateboard costs between $50 and $100 (Dhs367).
"We had to make our own skateboards," says Pando, a 46-year-old tattoo artist. "For the wheels we had to be a bit inventive, work out how you could fashion them from, say, the blades of a Russian food mixer."
His message got through to the global skateboarding community and skateboarders began to arrive from South America, Europe and the US. Since then everything has worked on donations. "We even received financial aid," says Gomez.
That money has paid for the construction of a skatepark in an abandoned building in Ciudad Libertad, a former military garrison converted into a school after the Castro revolution of 1959. "We found this area abandoned, filled with rubbish," says Ariel. "We cleaned it up and started to build our own skateboard park."
On the smooth granite floor, skaters ride at high speed, using ramps, ledges and concrete obstacles to practice jumps and tricks. It is a homemade park which for the moment is tolerated by the authorities. But it is a different story elsewhere.
A tag on one of the walls of the skatepark illustrates the mood: "F*** police," it reads in big red letters. "We aren't allowed to skate in the road," says 19-year-old Paul Ortega. "They arrest us, take us to the police station and fine us."
Meanwhile, skateboard devotees in Cuba are hoping that the Tokyo Olympic will change a few minds, that the authorities in Cuba will recognise it as a sport and that one day they will be able to compete for their country.
Dodging jellyfish and munching onigiri, spunky 16-year-old Shino Matsuda is riding waves of success with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on the horizon.
Cuba’s legendary boxing tradition still disallows women from competing, and boxer Idamelys Moreno and her peers are fighting for their place in the boxing ring.
There’s nothing like a countdown to get the heart racing. As a Paralympian, I spent two decades of my life racing the clock, plunging into pools in the small hours to shave seconds off my time, willing my muscles
After UEFA’s attempt to ban Manchester City from European football was overturned by sport’s highest court on Monday, the continental governing body’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) system, under which they were charged, faces likely changes.
The opening night of UFC Fight Island inspired awe and excitement amongst fans and sporting organisations across the world, not only due to the sporting spectacle, but also for the ambitious yet seamless delivery of an international event in the midst of a global pandemic.
Paris Saint-Germain routed second division Le Havre in a friendly on the Sunday remarkable not for the 9-0 score, but because it drew the biggest crowd for a match in one of Europe’s ‘Big Five’ football nations since early March.