jueves, 1 de enero de 2015
The day I booed… MIREYA LUIS
Reinaldo Cedeño Pineda
–Mamita ! Mamita!!!
I screamed loudly at
Palace, in , in 1983. I shouted again
and the stands seconded the claim in a chorus: Santiago de Cuba
–We want Mamita!!!
A call to the legend: Mercedes ¨Mamita¨ Pérez , member of the world champion team in 1978. The women’s volleyball match between
was being dominated by the visitors thanks to the excellence of their players.
Mamita´s magic was needed urgently. United States
The northern sextet had in its ranks the giant Flora Hyman, the short Rita Crocker, the efficient Debbie Green … The setter drew the ball in the air and the court trembled after every American spike. The previous year, at the World Cup in
, they had won the bronze
medal; but their rise had not stopped. Peru was facing , perhaps, the best
team in the world. Cuba
Eugenio George, the Cuban coach, announced a change. Now Mamita is going to play, I thought… but instead of Mercedes Pérez, the player who appeared in the court was an inexperienced sixteen-years-old girl, not even very tall, with an unknown name: Mireya Luis.
Spellbound by the game I was witnessing, nothing on her impressed me. I did not know seeing the strategy or the generational renewal and I booed her, almost viciously.
I left the
Palace convinced that a medal at the
Pan American Games in
-in August of that same year- would be difficult to reach. In addition to Caracas ,
the Peruvian girls also have a very strong team, with the lefty Cecilia Tait
and central blocker Gaby Perez del Solar. United States
The Venezuelan capital was a battle. The stellar veteran Imilsis Téllez was still the Cuban setter. Mireya made her debut in style.
managed to get to the title discussion. The 3-2 win over the formidable
American squad came out of all odds. I still remember the hugs, the jumps. Cuba
Mireya was news. A few weeks ago, she had become a mother and her participation was not assured. Would she still own her fabulous strength in the jump and attack? The question hung in the air, but she took care of clear them. I could not believe it when I saw her coming from the bench. I cried so much in front of the TV screen that the shouts must have been heard in the very center of
The history of Cuban Volleyball is known (glorious history). The women’s team was dubbed The Spectacular Dark-skinned Girls of the Caribbean and they won three consecutive Olympic Games:
92, Atlanta 96
and Sydney 2000. Barcelona
I particularly remember another of their success such as the World Cup in
in 1994. The Cuban players
won all matches without losing a set; including the final against the host. The
matches between them were train crashes; but the game of the Brazil Caribbean
athletes silenced the local public support.
An expert said that the Cuban squad had become a “machine” of playing volleyball. Mireya was the locomotive.
, “Luis” became queen. Her
name opened all doors. Each of her points was echoed. She enjoyed playing and
infected her teammates. When the team resented, she put character. A “scoopful”
by Mireya used to be the perfect remedy. And no one dared to steal her an
individual award, not risking the Chinese public -usually calmed- to invade the
Mireya Luis is one of the athletes with greatest record in the history of Latin American sport and a living legend of universal volleyball. Charismatic and respected, after her retirement, she joined the Athletes Commission of the International Olympic Committee and is currently helping to the development of beach volleyball in
Now that there are Caribbean spikes in many teams in the world, and other Cuban girls playing volleyball got a bronze medal at the Central American and Caribbean Games in
, my mind flooded with memories of
thirty years ago. Veracruz
Article in Spanish: El día que chiflé a Mireya Luis