National boxers return home after stranded 126 days in Cuba

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By Avenash Ramzan

For the four national boxers stranded in Cuba, the idiom ‘there is no place like home’ will forever be etched in their consciousness.

After 126 long, gruelling and uncomfortable days, Colin Lewis, Keevin Allicock, Desmond Amsterdam and Dennis Thomas touched down at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport on a Caribbean Airlines flight on Friday evening, never more excited to breathe the air of a country they call home.

On hand to welcome them was President of the Guyana Boxing Association, Steve Ninvalle, whose figurative gloves were throwing punches relentlessly at authorities to assist the quartet to return home.

“A long and frustrating haul,” was how Ninvalle described the journey the young men had to endure over the last four months.

Accompanying Ninvalle was Technical Director of the Association, Terrence Poole, MS, and eager family members of the boxers.

The pugilists were stranded in Cuba since March 20 after COVID-19 measures were implemented in the country, among them the closure of the main ports of entry. Guyana’s ports of entry were also closed to limit the spread of the deadly disease.

The boxers were initially in Cuba for a three-month training stint ahead of Americas Olympic Qualifier in Buenos Aries, Argentina. The Qualifier, which was set for March 26 to April 4, was postponed due to COVID-19.

Ninvalle expressed appreciation to the National Sports Commission, the Guyana Olympic Association, Ambassador Ivan Evelyn of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and everyone who supported in some way in getting the boxers reunited with their families and the boxing fraternity.

“People have been calling and voicing their support to them, and I just hope something like this never happens again. The guys will have a week off because they have to self-quarantine for one week,” Ninvalle told News Room on Friday evening.

“We will have psychological evaluation done after that and then we will decide on how and when they will get back into training. It has been an extremely long haul, but we’re very happy that they’re back home safe and sound.”

Team Captain Colin Lewis said they are extremely grateful to all those who pooled their efforts and resources to ensure their sojourn back to Guyana.

“We’re up and ready to hit the gym (again) and start training to put Guyana on the map,” Lewis said.

Speaking to the Department of Information, Director of Sport Christopher Jones explained when the country implemented lockdown measures, the National Sports Commission took the responsibility of the boxers to ensure that their accommodation and other needs were taken care of.

“This also would not have been possible without the support of Halim Majeed and the Guyana Embassy in Cuba,” he noted. Jones disclosed that they facilitated in transporting the young men to Havana, Cuba, from where they were being housed initially.

“Throughout the Caribbean, the Government has been making efforts to repatriate Guyanese from the different states and with some collaborative effort from Caribbean Airlines Limited, we were able to bring home Guyanese from Jamaica, Barbados and Cuba,” Jones stated.

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