Havana provides an authentic environment for competitors. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

FOR lovers of intense physical activity, combined with a historical and cultural tour, there is no better opportunity than the Havana Triathlon, an event that has been held four times, with plans underway for the fifth edition in 2019, coinciding with the city's 500th anniversary celebrations.

In February next year, participants will again fill Havana's world-famous streets, giving the event a special feature.

“Among the many triathlons run in the Americas, I don't think we can find one with the cultural implications of ours, held in a city declared a World Heritage Site, with prizes by very important visual artists, all commissioned specifically for the event,” stated José Carrasco, in charge of organizing the competition.

Wade Lambert, a journalist from the United States who has participated in the last two Havana Triathlons, noted Cuba's security and the friendliness of its people. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

For this Spaniard and a number of athletes surveyed, Havana provides another significant attribute: the humanity and closeness of its people.

Carrasco added in an interview with Granma International, “In Cuba, everyone is at the service of the participant. This is not seen much in the principal world venues.”

Some 500 triathletes participated in the most recent event, about 300 less than the 2017 competition. This decline came as a result of a reduction in the number of participants from the United States, some 400 fewer that the previous year's 500.

The drop occurred after the U.S. government advised participants to “reconsider” traveling to Cuba, citing security risks - a recommendation dismissed by many competing on Havana's streets.

Organizers of the Havana Triathlon are looking to raise the level of competition. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

Wade Lambert, for example, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, at 57 years of age participated in the half distance, enjoying it immensely. “The Havana Triathlon is marvelous. Throughout the competition you come across the city's historical sites and interact with many people from many countries. It's an impressive athletic and cultural experience,” he emphasized.

José Carrasco addressed U.S. participation, saying that athletes from this country have provided the bulk of competitors in the past, given its proximity to Cuba, but insisted that they are not indispensable to a successful event.

The speed, skill, and determination of athletes are palpable during the race. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

“From the quantitative point of view, it would be great if more representatives from the United States would come, because they bring a high level of performance in the sport, but what is most important to us is that those who decide to travel to Cuba, leave the island satisfied, happy, with the sensation and conviction that all the security advisories they heard were unfounded,” Carrasco said.

Lambert highlighted Cuba's cultural assets, “In our experience, people from the U.S. come here for the opportunity to learn something new, and I am convinced that this year many people who really wanted to participate, finally decided not to do so. Cuba is a fantastic country. I've already been three times, twice to run and once on vacation. Every place I go, I'm amazed by the kindness of the people.”

Cuba’s Michel González took the gold medal for the half distance race. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia