LONDON—As I stood outside the entrance to the Athletes’ Village, I sympathized with the other 10,000 journalists who couldn’t get their hands on a press pass for this year’s Olympic Games. Credentials dangled around the necks of men and women walking past, and every now and then I’d notice an athlete I had seen on the television. Team jerseys of countries like Honduras, Venezuela and Ecuador walked past. Some of the competitors were joined by reporters and cameramen, who disappeared behind the security check and into the Village.
After 30 minutes of waiting, I received a call from a member of the Nicaraguan Olympic Committee who had spoken to me two hours earlier and told me to hurry down to the Village if I wanted an interview with Nicaraguan boxer Osmar Bravo. Thankfully, the Nicaraguan delegation had agreed to my interview request and Bravo said he would join me outside the security checkpoint of the Athletes’ Village.
“Look up,” the Nicaraguan Olympic Committee member shouted into the phone. I scanned the apartments inside the village and noticed a Nicaraguan flag hanging from a balcony, and two waving bodies. I waved back.
Five minutes later, I spotted Nicaragua’s newest sporting hero as he came through the gates towards me. It was the face I had seen on television, and the man I had been writing about for the past few days. With him was an Olympic Committee member and a volunteer who spoke English and Spanish. My blushes were spared as I greeted the three and introduced myself in Spanish, before coming to the uncomfortable realization that my efforts to learn that language had not served me well. The volunteer translated and we got down to business.
“I am very happy and so is my gym back home,” he said.
What did you think of all the vocal support from the local fans in the Excel stadium? I asked.
Bravo smiled. “I have a boxing group I train with at home and when I heard all the people shouting in the stadium, I felt as if all of those people back home were there with me.”
The setting for the interview wasn’t exactly picturesque. There weren’t great water fountains or other scenic gems that adorn in the inside of the Village. Bravo leaned against a small wall, as my translator and I questioned him. The Olympic Committee member was within earshot, but stayed out of the conversation.
While Bravo’s body language suggested his humble and almost-shy nature, he spoke confidentially about his chances in Saturday’s fight.
“Lots of people said I would be wasting my time by coming to the Olympics,” he explained. “But I don’t feel like that. I came optimistic, expecting to do well. And on Monday I showed the first step in my plan to do that.”
I pointed to the Nicaragua flag hanging from the apartment balcony in the village and asked how life has been for the past week here in London.
“It has been a really lovely and a unique experience, and the people are treating me well,” Bravo says.
From a previous interview I had read with Bravo, his training regime back at home sounded far removed from that conditions that many British athletes train under. I queried him on his workout regime back at home.
“I do a run every day. I have a tire that I pull along. I also have a seat from a motorbike that I have on a stick that I use as a punching bag,” he explained.
So what is his regime now in London?
“I get up about eight o’clock and I go out running for about 25-30 minutes,” he said, listing off his day. “Then I come back, shower and change clothes and go to the dining room for breakfast. Then I come back to the room to phone home, my family and friends in Nicaragua, and after that I meet with my trainer to speak about the techniques and tactics for the fight I am preparing for.”
The clock on my Dictaphone was ticking over the 10-minute mark and I could sense that Bravo wanted to get back to the Village. So I wrapped up with one last question: How do you think you’ll do in the whole competition?
“I am confident and my goal is to get a medal,” he said.
Everyone smiled. I thanked Mr. Bravo for his time and wished him good luck in his fight Saturday.
The Nicaraguan boxer, whose last performance in the ring is already the stuff of legends back in his home country, will face Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Gvozdyk tomorrow in the penultimate fight of the night, at 11 p.m GMT. If he comes out victorious again, then Bravo will progress onto the quarter-finals and be three fights away from the gold medal and a place in the history books.
David Hutt is a freelance writer from London, UK, who will be on the trail of Latin America during the next year and will be working as a tour guide in Leon, Nicaragua. Follow his travels and misadventures on his blog.