(ATR) Alan Vera is Cuba's first Greco-Roman wrestler to become a United States national champion.
Last weekend, the Cuban won the 87 kilogram title during the USA Wrestling Senior Championship held in Coralville, Iowa, under strict sanitary protocols.
Vera hopes to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympics but first assures Around The Rings that he must compete successfully at the Olympic Trials, postponed by the coronavirus until April 2021.
But first, the Cuban must also have his U.S. passport in his hands.Vera expected to have completed his procedures with Immigration but on two occasions his appointments in March and August were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the recent national tournament Vera defeated Joe Rau, a two-time member of the United States world team, 7-1 in the final.
Vera had already beaten Rau in 2019 at the Dave Schultz Memorial where he won the gold medal. The Caribbean was also crowned at the Bill Farrell International and was a bronze medalist at an international tournament in Ukraine.
In those tournaments last year approved by United World Wrestling, the Cuban was allowed for the first time to put on the Stars and Stripes uniform, but for the Olympic Games and Pan American Games or World Championships he must compete as an American.
Vera, a native of the Cuban province of Santiago de Cuba, defected in early 2016 in Frisco, Texas, after winning the Pan American Championship and a day before competing in the continental pre-Olympic tournament for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
"The decision (to defect) is always tough, difficult, especially when you think about family," Vera tells Around The Rings."But for a moment I analyzed situations regarding myself in the past in Cuba and the emotions led me to make the decision of that present and future," he said.
Vera will turn 30 in two weeks. In October 2016, months after his escape, he married Elena Pirozhkova, a Russian-born fighter who grew up in Greenfield, Massachusetts.Pirozhkova has won three world medals in addition to her 2012 gold and also represented the United States at the Olympic Games in London and Rio de Janeiro.
The two met in 2014, when Pirozhkova went to Havana for an international tournament. They both currently live in New Jersey.
With a view to earning a spot for Tokyo, Vera faces other strong rivals in the division like Jon Anderson, the champion of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games.
In the Canadian city Anderson defeated Vera on the way to the gold medal but the Cuban has also beaten him last year along with the other Americans he has faced in recent times.
Vera will not be able to return to Cuba to be reunited with his relatives until 2024. The Cuban government establishes a punishment of eight years for anyone who leaves an official delegation. The Cuban recognizes the "difficult times" he has had to face but reiterates that the limitations "were never greater than my desire to succeed".
Written and reported byMiguel HernandezFor general comments or questions,click here.
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