The Dominican Republic’s Air Force recently built a race track to support the performance of the country’s best athletes, many of whom are service members or police officers.
In addition to protecting the sovereignty of the country’s airspace and combating illegal piracy, the Air Force of the Dominican Republic (FARD) is training the nation’s high-performance athletes, many of whom are from the Army and National Police, for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and other competitions.
“This training is conducted so the athletes are in optimal condition and can continually improve their physical training with a view to their commitments this year, such as the Military Games, the Central American and Caribbean Games, and the Olympics,” FARD Chief Master Sergeant José Rubio Rodríguez, who is training the athletes, told Diálogo
in an interview.
CM Sgt. Rubio employs the discipline he learned as a member of the Armed Forces, specifically the FARD, to train 24 high-performance athletes. “We work all year long, in country and abroad. This is just one more year of hard work for Dominican athletes,” said CM Sgt. Rubio, who is widely regarded as the country’s best track and field coach, having guided FARD 1st Lieutenant Luguelin Miguel Santos Aquino, 23, to a silver medal in the 400-meter dash at the 2012 Olympics.
“Just like service members prepare for their missions with clear objectives, athletes require a lot of physical and mental effort, a great deal of discipline, dedication, and consistency to get results, regardless of the competition,” CM Sgt. Rubio explained. In addition to training Dominican service members and police officers, he also coaches several international athletes, including Honduran national Rolando Palacios, a sprinter who won a gold medal at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2014, according to the website El Caribe
“Some 98 percent of the high-performance athletes in the Dominican Republic are members of the Military or police,” Colonel Julio César Hernández Olivero, the Dominican Army’s Director of Sports, told Diálogo
on April 2015. The FARD has a registry of about “170 athletes in track and field. “These young, high-performance athletes represent the Military and our country,” Colonel Antonio Santos Gómez, the FARD’s Director of Sports, told Diálogo
. “Every time an athlete from the Dominican Air Force wins a competition, the Air Force’s sports and social assistance efforts are validated.”
A new race track
To better support its national athletes, the FARD recently built a race track near the San Isidro Air Base. The eight-lane track is 200 meters long and composed of two layers of synthetic materials.
“This construction was a fervent dream for many, and now thanks to the cooperation of friends, businesses, officials, and Defense Minister Máximo William Muñoz Delgado, it has all come to pass,” Major General Elvis Marcelino Feliz Pérez, Dominican Air Force Chief of Staff, stated during a November 3rd press conference to showcase the Multidisciplinary Sports Complex.
Some athletes representing the preliminary Dominican national team train at the new track. The runners include FARD 1st Lt. Santos; FARD Second Lieutenant Masielis Sánchez; FARD Staff Sergeant Jordania Díaz Hottesse; FARD Staff Sergeant Álvaro Luis Abreu Martínez; FARD Senior Airman Evelyn Del Carmen Hichez; FARD Airman Jayline De León Concepción; Dominican Army Private Stanly Del Carmen; and National Police Privates Juander Santos Aquino and Juan Aroldis Santos Aquino, according to a FARD press release.
In addition to Dominican athletes, a number of foreigners are being trained at the Multidisciplinary Sports Complex, including Rose Mary Vargas and Víctor Santana from Puerto Rico and Liemarvin Bonevacia from the Netherlands.
There is also a short track where “children from 8 to 12 years old come to practice every Friday. The FARD has developed a program to train children as the athletes of the future who will represent the Armed Forces and the country,” Col. Santos Gómez stated.
Supporting sports programs not only helps Dominican athletes win their competitions, but it promotes a greater sense of connection between the FARD and civilians, according to Col. Santos Gómez. Athletics also keep young men and women away from crime.
“The Air Force General Staff Office incentivizes and encourages the development of close relationships with civilian communities because we perform social work with the community,” Col. Santos Gómez said. “The Armed Forces are seeing success in keeping youths away from crime. The results appear in the public’s great interest in joining the Armed Forces.”
“The FARD has supported me since I was little, when they lent me a helping hand in sports,” 1st Lt. Santos told Diálogo. “
It is the institution that has always been by my side in good times and in bad. I am proud to represent my country’s Air Force.
“Sports are a method of prevention and it molds you as a human being. Countries should start choosing the sports path so that youths are not abandoned to the influences of those who would pull them away from where they should be,” he continued.
Sports, the FARD, and his mother’s support helped 1st Lt. Santos stay away from bad choices in the tough neighborhood where he was raised.
“I was born in a dangerous barrio
[Santo Cristo] with drug deals on every street corner,” said 1st Lt. Santos, who took silver in the 400-meter dash and the 4×400-meter relay at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara in 2011. “I never chose that path. Thanks to my mother and the FARD, I have been able to carry my country’s flag as far and wide as possible. There are no borders in track and field, regardless of which military or country you’re from. We are all one family, united by sport.”
First Lt. Santos’s goal is to win gold at the 2016 Olympics, which will be held August 5th-21st in Rio de Janeiro. Approximately 10,500 athletes from 205 countries will compete in 42 events.
“I feel physically ready to take the gold. I am focused on my job as an athlete,” he said. “This time, things are looking better than they did for the London Olympics [in 2012].”
“We’re going for the gold,” CM Sgt. Rubio agreed.