December 7, 2012

While training for the London 2012 Paralympic Games I realized that there was a goal, a finish line to aim. Now that the Games are over, it is hard to see beyond each day. Many things come to mind and many questions arise. Will I keep on training? Will I start working as an architect? Will I stay training in Colorado or should I go back to Miami? The truth is that I did not have an answer to any of these questions because I wanted to enjoy the Games. Today, three months after the Games, I am not sure what the answers are but I have done many fun things after the Games that make the experience of uncertainty worthwhile.

 Ileana Rodriguez
 This photo says it all – we’re having so much fun!
 Ileana Rodriguez
 Me and Coach Andy
 Ileana Rodriguez
 Me and my family in Cuba

It started with a week in London after the Games with my family. I got to experience the city and enjoy the life of London. It was great to see how the spirit of the Games did not die with the Closing Ceremony. People in the streets where talking about it and asking me questions when they would realize I was an athlete.  Also it was fun to spend those days with the people that have supported me the most – family and friends that came to London just to watch me race.

After London I returned to Miami for a few days. As a good swimmer I had to visit the pool where I used to train in Miami and talk to Flying Fish Swim team that has supported me for the past five years, and allowed for Coach Andrew to come watch me race in London as well. The athletes were very happy to see me come back. Many of the parents wanted me to swim. I must confess that I was not brave enough to get in the water. 

After my arrival in Miami I needed to escape and have a real vacation. I say real because it did not involve any type of training.  I went to Argentina! Buenos Aires was a city I always have heard many good stories about. Andy was the reason to visit Argentina and the experience was great. I found a great family that took great care of me. I got to see the tango on the street, as well as the biggest steak I have ever seen in my life. One of the greatest things about this adventure was the visit to the Iguazu waterfalls. The natural landscaping is overwhelming and left an unforgettable image full of peace and the amazing power of nature.

After Argentina I did not stop my journey. I then embarked on one of the most important experiences of all. Before the games I had promised my grandmother that I would visit her in Cuba. After six years of not being in my country of birth, I was on my way to see my 86-year-old grandma! She was not only very proud of me, but she made almost the entire city of Matanzas watch me on TV while I was competing in London. During my visit to Cuba, I swam with my cousins in the beach where I first learned how to swim and for the first time my grandmother was not worried about me drowning. I guess I had to compete at a Paralympic Games for her to feel safe about my swimming.

After all of this traveling and experiences I do not have a clear answer about my future but I have learned something, I wanted to be back in Miami with my family. I am slowly returning to my training routine and looking forward to new adventures, not only in the sport but also in my architecture career. I will keep you updated on the many events to come.