Haiti arrives at the Paralympic Games amid devastating earthquake
"It’s really important for Haiti to be here, to show the world that we are still here."25 Aug 2021
Haiti National Paralympic Committee at the airport. Photo provided by the NPC.
ⒸHaiti National Paralympic Committee
By Ruth Faulkner I For the IPC
The Haiti National Paralympic Committee, with one Para athlete Ywenson Registre, had some difficulties getting to Tokyo as a result of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake which has battered their country.
Haiti made worldwide news headlines earlier this month as the southwestern region was hit by an earthquake, causing devastation and a death toll that is still continuing to rise over 2,200.
Arriving in Tokyo later than planned, the night before the Opening Ceremony, Chef de Mission Fabiola Cenord took a moment to reflect on the current situation.
"Even though we were not in the province the earthquake hit, we and our athletes have family members and friends who are affected by the earthquake," she said. “We have wifi so we are keeping in touch with them all the time using Whatsapp and calls so we don’t lose touch, we speak to them every day.”
The earthquake made it harder logistically for the team to leave Haiti and travel to Tokyo.
“It was really hard for us to leave as all the country was affected by the earthquake," coach Readforby Milfort explained. "All the difficulties came when we were in preparation to come to Tokyo. All the priorities of the government was the earthquake victims not the Tokyo Games. So we did everything in our power to come.”
The team were also faced with transit visa issues, causing last minute concerns at the airport.
“It was all really, really stressful," Cenord added. "We had the visas, and the earthquake and the death of our President. All of this came at the same time so it was really stressful.”
Registre, who competes in the men’s shot put F57, believes the current situation makes his Paralympic campaign all the more important.
“It’s really important for Haiti to be here, to show the world that we are still here," he said. “It is really special to be here to represent my country even though we have earthquakes and all of this trouble, but this feels really important and special.
“It is a way to show solidarity with the victims and we are Haiti: ‘L'Union Fait La Force'," Registre said, reflecting on the Haiti flag motto which means ‘unity is strength’.
Given the current situation you would not be surprised if Registre was distracted, but instead he said his focus was never stronger.
“I am very concentrated and focused on my sport, and I won’t let the situation in Haiti affect me here. I remain focused on what I have to do in Tokyo to get a medal.”
Haiti has also been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and like many athletes Registre’s training was impacted. “In the pandemic time it was really difficult to get training as all the centres for training were closed but I was training at home by myself and in the gym by my home.
“I believe in myself, I have a lot of confidence, so I think that the medal will be my mine. We hope to return to the country with a medal and give our people a feeling of joy, happiness and peace.”