Pinecrest Fitness recently hosted a spinning class fundraiser for Olympic-bound triathlete and Little Havana resident Manuel Huerta. Local athletes and friends hope to raise enough money to help Huerta take his family with him to London in August so they can watch him compete in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games Triathlon at Hyde Park.
“It would be awesome to look up at the stands and see my family there,” said Huerta. “They are the key to my success. I hope they can see me compete at the biggest sporting event in the world.”
On May 12, Huerta finished in ninth place at the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Triathlon in San Diego, California. He finished the 1,500 meter swim, 40 kilometer bike and 10 kilometer run in 1:49:31.
Huerta was a promising triathlete in Cuba, but defected to the United States at 13 years old in 1997. Huerta told the New York Times that because his grandmother left the island during the Mariel boat lift he was stigmatized and therefore Cuban dictator Fidel Castro would never have allowed him to represent Cuba at the Olympics.
“To have been able to move to a free country where my dreams could become a reality is because of my mother,” said Huerta. “She got me into sports at a young age and dedicated her life so that I could get ahead.”
Huerta’s mother has been battling cancer for the past three years. Witnessing her go through the surgeries and chemotherapy treatment was very tough he admits, but her resilience and strength have continued to serve as an inspiration.
“For the past year-and-a-half, the pet scans have been negative and so it looks like she is overcoming the melanoma” said Huerta. “To see her fight has been such an inspiration for me to keep pushing myself to follow my own dreams.”
Fellow triathlete and friend Michael Nunez said it is Huerta’s humility and passion that has endeared him in the athletic community, which has supported his goals for years.
“We started in triathlons together about five years ago,” said Nunez. “To see him grow throughout the years as a modest and extremely passionate triathlete with such a big heart has been wonderful. Everything happened so quickly (making the Olympic cut) and we thought it would be good to do some type of fundraiser so his mother and sister and girlfriend could be there at the games to support him.” Huerta’s father succumbed to colon cancer in 2009.
Pinecrest Fitness owner Mike Estevez and Nunez joined forces to earmark spin instructor Steve Brookner’s class to raise the neces- sary travel funds.
“A few years ago, he didn’t have a bike,” said Estevez. “Now he is going to the Olympic Games to compete in the triathlon, which is super cool. He made the news everywhere when he qualified and a bunch of us went to the air- port to welcome him home from San Diego. It is very expensive to go to London, especially during the summer games, and most of the hotels are already booked. They need a lot of help to all get out there, so we decided to team up to raise money to help him out.”
So far Pinecrest Fitness has raised $2,450 towards Huerta’s family Olympic travel fund. Donations will be accepted at the gym until June 30. Wells Fargo Bank has also created the Manuel Huerta Donation Fund to support the family trip.
“I want to thank the Miami community for its support and help,” said Huerta. “Since I was a kid I have had so many people that have helped me out. They never gave up on me. The most important thing for me to do right now is to be confident and continue my training program. Now I get to go to the biggest sporting event in the world and repre- sent the United States.” To donate to the Manuel Huerta Donation Fund, send checks to 9255 SW 158 Lane, Suite D, Miami, FL 33157; visit Pinecrest Fitness at 9549 S. Dixie Hwy. or call 305-233-4896.