Five members of Cuba’s national judo team have defected while training in Europe

Five Cuban athletes have escaped the communist chains of slavery and defected from the Castro plantation. Between January and March of this year, five members of the Cuban judo team, which was sent to Europe to train, have escaped their handlers and are now free.

Via Periodico Cubano (my translation):

Judokas on the run: Five defect from the Cuban delegation during training in Europe

Five Cuban judokas who were at a training camp in Europe have defected from the official delegation between the months of January and March of this year, as revealed by journalist Francys Romero on Friday. The information had been kept hidden until now.

The athletes involved are Vanesa Godinez (48 kg), Melissa Hurtado (52 kg), Blanca Elena Torres (52 kg), Lutmary García (63 kg), and Santa Virgen Romero (78 kg). All of them were talented athletes in Cuban sports honing their skills in France. Since it was a training camp without any scheduled competitions, and due to the gradual nature of their departures, their cases did not immediately come to light.

According to Romero, Hurtado, a bronze medalist in the 2017 youth world championship, was regarded as the most promising rising star. She and Godínez were the first to leave the group on January 28th.

Later, the drive to seek a better future also led Santa Virgen Romero to leave the team. Finally, on March 11th, two others (Blanca Elena Torres and Lutmary García) agreed to escape together.

These desertions are a harsh blow to Cuban judo, as these five women were expected to be the next generation of the national team, which failed to win any medals in the recent World Championships held in Doha, Qatar.

In an effort to ensure their preparation, they were sent to a training camp in France, one of the European countries with a strong tradition in the sport. However, the Cuban athletes decided to prioritize their athletic careers and the future of their families since being tied to the official Institute of Sports and Physical Recreation (INDER), they would not prosper while in Cuba.

Cases of Cuban athletes taking advantage of an opportunity abroad to escape the control of INDER have been frequent in recent years.. They have been proportionally related to the mass exodus experienced by the Cuban people in search of better opportunities away from the situation of poverty and political repression on the island.

One significant escape that occurred in recent weeks was that of two-time world boxing champion Yoenlis Hernández, who took advantage of a layover in Panama to escape at the airport itself. Hernández had been the only gold medalist at the Tashkent World Championships.