The spiritual connections in 1917
February 21, 2020
Black Power revolution unfinished
February 21, 2020

Backing herself through badminton

By Jamila Cross,

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers.”–Nelson Mandela.

This is the driving philosophy behind the Solangel Guzman Caribbean Sports Academy. Solangel is Cuban by birth and came to Trinidad and Tobago in 2010.

Now retired from the sport of badminton, she describes a chance encounter with a coach in Cuba offering her a racket and the opportunity to hit the shuttle which she did so well, he asked her to return the following day.

“I started to play badminton by accident. I wanted to be an engineer; be in the military service or go to art school, but I joined the badminton club and it changed my life forever.”

Guzman became a top badminton player in Cuba, a Pan American Games doubles quarter-finalist, a Central American and Caribbean (CAC) singles champion and also medalled at the Peru Open, as well as tournaments in Brazil, Venezuela and Dominican Republic.

I wondered how this Cuba-born athlete came to represent Trinidad and Tobago? Solangel alluded to an international law in badminton that allows a player to represent another country if he/she has not competed internationally for two years.

In 2013, three years after coming to T & T she was allowed to don national colours and became a dominating force in the local badminton scene. In 2016, she emerged as the top women’s ‘Player of the Year’ by the T & T Badminton Association.

Solangel has had the opportunity to influence the sport of badminton locally holding several key positions as former Technical Director, Senior National Coach of the T & T Badminton Association, Specialist Badminton Coach at the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, and Physical Education Teacher/Coach at primary and secondary school level.

Solangel currently resides in Spain with her family, and she shared with me her trajectory in the sport.


Who has been your biggest influencer in your career?

At each step, I had someone guiding me. Some were coaches, but I feel my mental fortitude, my determination to make it regardless, my capacity to overcome insurmountable challenges has influenced me the most.


How do you deal with setbacks?

I faced many challenges in both Cuba and T&T, being an international athlete: feelings of loneliness, financial challenges, being treated unjustly in the sport. But winning trumps everything. When I am on the court, I feel free!


What would you describe as your most notable achievement to date?

2016 Suriname International Open, winning gold in the Women’s Singles and Women’s Doubles and silver in the Mixed Doubles. It was my last international competition and some important people in my life at that time did not believe nor supported me when I needed them the most. Hence, I won just to prove them wrong.


Describe a day in your training regime for me?

Wake up at 5 a.m., read, meditate, visualise. Train for four or five hours in the morning. Have lunch and then train again another two or three hours in the afternoon. Return home, eat, rest, and repeat, Monday to Saturday.


What does success mean to you?

Living a life of meaning and significance, of learning and growing, of giving and receiving.


Where do you see yourself in the next three years?

A successful entrepreneur, a wise investor, an inspiring motivational speaker and an extraordinary woman. I see myself living the most joyful, prosperous, fulfilling life that I could have ever wished for.

Solangel for your commitment, dedication and triumphs in your sport, we salute you. You are a master!

Jamila Cross is a triathlete, former professional footballer for Sevilla FC women’s Club Spain, and mother of three boys Tishad, Akim and Santiago. She is the founder of the Mariama Foundation, a registered non-profit organisation raising the storytelling bar for the Caribbean’s female athletes