By B Shrikant
Birmingham, August 4 (IANS): Refugee athletes have become a special class of participants in multi-sport extravaganzas like the Summer Olympics, Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has set up a comprehensive program to select these athletes and help them participate in mega events under its own banner.
Although there is no separate contingent or team of refugee athletes taking part in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, there are athletes who have sought asylum in other countries and have now become hopefuls. medals for their adopted country.
Ana Godinez Gonzalez was one such sportswoman who came to Canada from Mexico when she was very young and has now become their main hope and medal contender in wrestling.
According to her, she thought she was going to Disneyland when her father told her the family was spending a week on vacation with Mickey, Minnie and Co in the Magic Kingdom — in fact they were fleeing their native Mexico for their own safety to begin a new life in Canada.
Godinez Gonzalez was seven years old when his world changed. She arrived in Canada with no friends and barely a word of English but 16 years later is representing her adopted country in the 62kg wrestling division at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games. favorites for gold.
The family owned a car dealership and an ice cream business in Aguascalientes, central Mexico, but corruption was rampant.
“One day people called and said, ‘If you don’t give us money or cars, we’re going to kidnap your children,’ Godinez Gonzalez said. “They knew where we lived and went to school. .
“My dad decided not to tell us where we were going. He said, ‘we’re going on vacation to Disneyland.’ And then we landed in Canada.
“My older sister was 15. She had a boyfriend and school friends, and she was doing judo. It was more difficult for her.
“When we arrived in Canada, my father hired a bodyguard. He paid for his entire trip – everything – to take care of us.
“Once we landed, we ended up living in a hotel in a not so nice area. It was a party place. We ended up staying there for six months with zero English.
“We didn’t have any friends, we were just trying to do our own thing. We tried to communicate with signs when we were playing,” she told Games News Service.
Godinez Gonzalez quickly settled into Surrey, BC, immersing herself in the sport. In May, she won the Pan American Wrestling Championships in the 62kg category – one of her older sisters Karla won gold at 55kg – and Ana is also the Under-23 World Champion.
“I never thought I would travel the world,” Godinez Gonzalez said. “I thought I was going to stay in Mexico all my life. I didn’t even know there was so much to see in the world.
“I didn’t know you could have a career in sports. We were kids on the streets in Mexico talking to people in cars trying to get them to buy ice cream.
“Where I am now is just another world. I’m excited about the competition here. Until the beginning of this year, I did not know the existence of the Commonwealth Games.
The fight at Birmingham 2022 will take place on August 5-6 at Coventry Arena. There are 12 weight classes, six for men and six for women, all freestyle.
Canada and India have dominated Commonwealth Games wrestling competition since the sport made its debut at the first Games in Hamilton, Canada in 1930.
Canada won 135 medals, 66 gold, 43 silver and 26 bronze. India collected 102 medals, 43 gold, 37 silver and 22 bronze.