For more than a decade, the CRESO program, dawned as an INICIA initiative, has supported and promoted and driven forward the country’s high-performance athletes through all levels.
Soon after the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, when the Dominican Republic won two gold medals, – Félix Díaz in Boxing, and Gabriel Mercedes won Silver in Taekwondo-, amidst a meeting held in the INICIA Headquarters, a feature story published in the British magazine “The Economist” was discussed in detail.
“The topic”? How was it possible that the Dominican Republic was more successful -per capita- in this edition of the Olympic Games than the most greatest superpowers in the world, not only at sportsmanship, but also numbers-wise?
A light went on in Felipe Vicini’s head, -who found the perfect way to promote in-country leadership-, by creating a program that bolstered said development.
“We are looking for the right way to leverage ourselves within the Olympic movement to create our country’s future leaders. As you know, sadly…. Despite improvements, our country still lacks leaders and exemplary role models. One of the directives we kept in mind was to create an organization that would support athletes, and at the same time, develop a holistic model athlete, a leader in their community”, Vicini explained to Diario Libre.
Alongside INICIA, Central Romana Corporation, Ltd., CLARO, Ferquido, Banco Popular Dominicano, Grupo RICA, Grupo SID, and TOTAL compose the program currently responsible for bolstering athletes from some 15 different disciplines.
“This is a long-term investment; the end-result is to have leaders that can lead the country forward, because if we can achieve for the nation to grow forward and onward, it’s a win-win for all of us, businessmen and citizens alike”.
85% of the Athletes headed to TOKYO 2020 are CRESO Athletes
The Dominican Republic is taking 66 athletes to the Olympic Games, including 36 from baseball and volleyball as team disciplines. Among the 30 remaining athletes, Vicini says “85% are CRESO-sponsored athletes. I see this selection -the greatest so far- if we exclude the team disciplines: the Caribbean Queens, and our baseball team make for 28 overall, and still, it is the greatest selection. I think 85% are CRESO-sponsored athletes. Those that achieved recognition in canoeing, were not part of a CRESO-endorsed sport. I think we’ve got a great delegation”. However, the impresario dares not promise medals just yet: “I’m not making any promises; I’m not a fortune-teller. There is great pressure over the Dominican Olympic Committee”.
Gabriel Mercedes: A CRESO role model
For Vicini, the story of each Dominican athlete is unique and inspirational. They are stories that tell the tale of sacrifice, betterment, commitment, and a lot of hard work. And there’s one particular story that serves as inspiration to the CRESO founder.
“Obviously, I believe Felix to be a great person. I have dealt with him closely in the CRESO Board, and his life story is indeed interesting, and yet, Gaby Mercedes if one of the best CRESO role models. Gaby won the gold in London but got injured. His life changed forever. The way he accepted and embraced that change -despite not being his fault and recovering- knowing that he perhaps had another 4-year Olympic cycle left, and how his dream just vanished, the way he reinvented himself, was just admirable”, Vicini explained.
In London 2012, Gabriel Mercedes tore the ligaments on one knee, which translated to the end of his Olympic career. However, like the phoenix, he rose again and became the leader CRESO promotes in all athletes once their careers come to an end.
“That young man is now an instructor, he offers courses, motivational talks, he majored in accounting, and is also a member of the National Police; that fills me with pride. To see this type of story, unfold, where a catastrophe did not serve as excuse for him to “just sit”, he adapted, he overcame, that to me is a story that fills my eyes with tears whenever I relive it in my thoughts”, Vicini said.
Mercedes continues to be close to the athletic world, yet his horizons have expanded in another direction.