The adventure I will tell you is an adventure that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
As I departed from Miami International airport July 11th with my coach Donnovan Garvi I couldn’t help but have this sensation that I was going on an exploration I’ll never forget. When Donnovan and I arrived in San Salvador airport we were asked to show the required documents to enter the country by airport personnel. My coach did not have any visa forms to enter the country so he was escorted to the next flight to Miami. This part was chaotic we argued for about half an hour to airport personnel, after that we realized there is no winning with them. Officers forced my coach to stay overnight in an airport jail since he missed his flight that deports him back to Miami. I had a British passport so I did not need a visa form to enter the country of El Salvador. Because of Donnovan's sudden and unexpected departure I was left with no information or knowledge as to where I needed to stay, How to get there, directions to the Track & Field Stadium, expenses that needed to be paid and I did not speak the San Salvadorian native language. At this point my heart was racing like a horse but I looked composed and at ease. This is a country that suffered decades of civil war and are now just coming to grips with it, so of course I felt that one wrong move could be un-pleasant.
I managed to find a ride to the Track & Field stadium after a gruesome experience at the airport, it was a long ride but I knew things would turn out to be good. I met up with a few people that were in charge of the NACAC federation and told them my story. I had to register myself and Turks & Caicos into the NACAC championships because the TCI athletics board did not register me in any of my events. After hours of pleading, I was fortunate enough to be entered in the Track meet. The NACAC Federation registered me as coach, manager and athlete for the TCI Track & Field team. After everything was said and done at the Track I was told to stay at the Albergue hotel. What a stunning location it was, up in the mountains and away from the busy streets. Of course the hotel was not paid for by the Turks & Caicos board so out of my own expense I had to cover the charges.
I attended all the coaches meetings at the Hilton Hotel. They lasted until 12:30am passed midnight, my first race was at 9am the following morning, thus did not have the adequate rest to perform at my highest level. I managed to compete in all of my races and ran to the best of my ability at all times.
I had four days to spare, I considered them my vacation time. So I went on a journey in El Salvador, I got to see the mountains, breathtaking sceneries of buzzing cities from up high. The experiences in San Salvador that I cherish the most though are the people. I’ve met more loving and friendly people there in one week than in a lifetime. Everyone was receptive to a change, everyone was quick to accommodate me, and everyone seemed to enjoy life for what it is. These are qualities that are definitely missing in Canada. We are too consumed with materialistic goods and work seems to take over our lives. This is not a lifestyle I want to continue living.
Next year’s track meets should be completely organized. Athletes should not be the manager, coach and athlete in a foreign country especially if they have traveled far distances to get there. Athletes should be focusing on their events alone. Thank you though for giving me the opportunity to represent my country, it was an immense learning experience.
Here are my times and events from the NACAC Championships in San Salvador:
400 metres - 48.49
200 metres - 22.33
Written by Mario Rigby