Dream of gold

June 5, 2012

By Swoan Parker

Gold in Haiti should no longer be just a dream. Even before prospective mining begins in the country’s northern hills, the realization of it all could be little more than one month away. Without investing millions and weighing only 52 kg (114 pounds), 21-year-old Linouse Desravines, the country’s only judoka to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics, is all it might take for Haiti to acquire gold.

Being a fan of the martial arts with secret fantasies of being a Ninja when I was a young child, I wanted to meet the country’s only athlete who is also female and would represent them in judo.  I made a few calls and was put in touch with coaches Ulrick Louis-Charles and Andres Ramos Franco, both former Olympians at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Louis-Charles returned to the Games more recently as coach in Beijing.

Linouse, who is ranked #28 in the world in her weight class, is from Haiti’s north coast where she lives and regularly trains. In preparation for the games, Linouse was scheduled to stay in the capital for a few days and train with the two coaches, before traveling to France to continue training for seven more weeks before arriving in London.

I made arrangements to meet her during a daily five-hour practice session. It was an early morning call; I arrived at the sports center at 6am and the athletes were already running wind sprints.  As I walked nearer to the group I noticed one female athlete in particular that just exuded a commanding presence in spite of being petite.  It was Linouse.

In 2008 Linouse began training in Judo after being introduced to the sport by her brother, Franklin, a national champion. She has since won several international titles, most recently taking the bronze in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, a precursor to the Summer Olympics. She was also named her country’s 2011 Athlete of the Year.

There really could be gold in those hills…


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