Odyssey Comes To An End For Ecuadorian Swimmers As They Return Home

The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the sports world on a global scale. Among others, it has prevented four members of Ecuador’s national swim team from returning to their home country. This week, after a long wait, complaints and diplomatic intermediaries in between, managed to arrive on domestic soil.

The group included reigning Pan-American marathon swimming champion Esteban Enderica along with teammates David Farinango and David Castro, and coach Juan Fernando Enderica. All of them were in the midst of a training camp in Cochabamba, Bolivia, when the borders of that nation closed on March 16.

The squad decided to travel to Cochabamba, where the aquatic center that hosted the 2018 South American Games two years ago is located, because the pool where they regularly train, in the Ecuadorian city of Cuenca where they reside, had been closed since October 2019.

The camp taking place on Bolivian soil was due to end March 30, serving as the final preparation stage for the 2020 Buenos Aires South American Championships. The open water events for the championship were set to be held in the town of Escobar, on the outskirts of the Argentine capital, in early April. The meet was canceled once the group had arrived in Bolivia and has not been rescheduled as of yet.

After complaints, social media outreach and various efforts through the media, all four swimmers and Enderica managed to travel along with 23 other Ecuadorian nationals stranded in different parts of Bolivia, who were being repatriated to Ecuador from the city of La Paz. The squad was supported by the Ecuadorian embassy and returned on a flight that had originally departed from Switzerland. All of them arrived last Saturday at Quito.

The Enderica brothers, Farinango and Castro, will have to remain in Ecuador’s capital for two weeks until they can return home. In compliance with the quarantine, the four members of the Ecuadorian swimming team have been housed at a hotel in Quito.

Esteban Enderica, who spent over a month stranded in Bolivia, competed at the London 2012 Olympics, where he ranked 29th in the 400 IM. Then, in Rio 2016, he competed in the 1500-meter freestyle, finishing 23rd overall.

Curiously, Cochabamba -where Enderica was stranded for the last 45 days-, holds a very special memory for the athlete as this is where he climbed to the top of the podium at the 2018 South American Games.

Enderica claimed golds in the 1500-meter freestyle along with the 10-kilometer open water swim then, allowing him to bear the nation’s flag at the 2019 South American Games in Playa Rosario, where Enderica also won the 10-kilometer marathon swim.

The success continued during the Lima 2019 Pan-American Games, where the Pan-American champion wound up snagging the gold medal once again.

The 29-year-old  swimmer told local media that not having been able to swim since March 20 is equal to 30% of his regular training volume, which at the same time translates to eight months of work. “Hence, we need to plan ahead in order to catch up as soon as possible,” Enderica said in an interview with El Universo.

Ecuador remains one of the worst-hit South American countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the website worldometers.info, the nation has accounted for a total of 10,398 infections, out of which 1,207 have recovered and 20,453 have lost their lives.


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