A note from Jit, the official publication of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation of Cuba, announced the II Gran Retto de Aguas Abiertas, Varadero 2023, to be held on September 16th and 17th, in which more than 320 swimmers, both foreigners and Cubans, are expected to participate.
The document, reproduced in its latest edition by the weekly Girón, indicates that it will be sponsored by Inder and its provincial directorate in Matanzas and at the end it points out as organizers Cubadeportes S.A., Havanatur S.A. and foreign operators such as the Mexican companies Taino Tours and Gran Retto.
On Saturday, the 16th, there will be competitions for children under 12 years of age at a distance of 750 meters in the area near the Los Delfines Hotel and also swimming for masters, in a more recreational way, at distances of 1,500 and 3,000 meters.
After reading the work, I remembered Leonel «Bebito» Smith Polo, recognized by many specialists as the Father of Cuban Swimming, who swam those distances in Playa Azul itself, in the first decades of the 20th century, as part of his training or directly in competitions organized by the Nautical Club of Varadero.
At only 15 years of age, he made his debut in the competitions of the already popular tourist pole, on August the 23rd, 1924, and won the 100 and 200 meters freestyle. The following day, he again presented his credentials in the 400 and 1 500 meters freestyle.
At that time, prior to the rowing regattas, the main spectacle of Varadero’s summer, many bathers enjoyed those encounters between swimmers from the Havana Yacht Club, Vedado Tennis Club and the University of Havana, against the representatives of the Varadero Nautical Club, in which «Bebito» became unbeatable.
For the above reasons, I think it would be fair that the organizers name the next versions of the open water competitions in Varadero after him, the place where he was born and trained as an athlete.
Next year, it would have a great historical value for that purpose, since it will be the centenary of Leonel Smith’s debut as a swimmer in an official competition in our country. If so, it would be a great recognition to this emblematic figure of Cuban sport.
Written by Francisco Soriano.