Cuban wrestling champ absconds in Mexico

·2-min read
Champion wrestler Ismael Borrero has become the latest Cuban athlete to abscond while abroad (AFP/Jack GUEZ) (Jack GUEZ)

Olympic wrestling champion Ismael Borrero has become the latest Cuban athlete to abscond while abroad, leaving the delegation in Mexico for the Pan-American Wrestling Championships, sports officials said.

The star athlete, 30, won gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and was crowned world champion twice in 2015 and 2019.

"Unfortunately, the arrival (of the team in Acapulco) was marked by... Ismael Borrero abandoning the delegation," the Cuban Institute of Sports (Inder) announced via its web portal Jit.

His actions, it added, "constitutes a serious indiscipline within the Cuban sports system and disregards the objectives of his team in this competition and in the four-year period leading up to the Paris-2024 Olympic Games."

Borrero was by no means the first Cuban athlete to take flight during a sporting event.

Several boxers, footballers, track-and-field athletes and baseball players have left Cuba over the years, many going on to participate in the United States and Europe.

Participation in professional sport had been barred by the late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, causing many to abscond to pursue salaried careers elsewhere.

Last June, Cuba's baseball team failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in history after star player Cesar Prieto took flight just hours after arriving in the United States for a qualifier tournament.

In May, canoeist Fernando Dayan Jorge, Olympic champion in Tokyo last year, abandoned a Cuban delegation training in Mexico.

And in 2021, half the baseball team participating in the U-23 world Cup in Mexico absconded.

Cuba now has 17 fighters, including six women, left in the Pan-American tournament in Acapulco, which starts on Thursday and serves as a qualifier for the World Wrestling Championships in Belgrade later this year as well as the multi-discipline Pan-American Games in Chile next year.

Borrero's flight comes as Cuba experiences a massive emigration wave in the midst of its worst economic crisis in three decades fueled by the collapse of tourism income due to the Covid-19 pandemic and ramped-up US sanctions.

Most plot a precarious route through Central America northward to the United States.

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