Carlos Belizaire Bussette 1951
Image thanks to Mr. Anthony McLean
the Trainer of Champions, Carlos Belizaire Bussette.
Image thanks to Oswald Baptiste
When I received word of Professor Carlos Belizaire’s death last night through an email I thought of dedicating a post to this extraordinary teacher who I happened to meet up with several times as a kid on my treks down to the Olympic stadium here in Curundu. He was an enigmatic figure to me at the time (I was just approaching adolescence) with a rather worried countenance.
But, he was often there welcoming us kids and ready to take on and mentor any promising track and field athlete. Whenever a group of us kids would arrive to see what was going on amongst the aspiring boxers, sprinters, jumpers and baseball and basketball players, he was there to meet anyone of us who yearned to compete with the best. Of course, we didn’t know we were in the presence of one of the best athletic trainers Panama would ever produce.
Carlos Belizaire Bussette was born in Panama City in 1917 of Martinican parents. A great athlete himself he was probably best known as The Trainer of Champions. He was one of the key men, in fact, in training our national champion, Lloyd LaBeach, who, up until Irving Saladino’s triumphant return from the Beijing Olympics with Panama’s first Gold Medal in the Long Jump competition, was Panama’s only Olympic Champ, having won a Bronze medal in the 1948 London Olympics.
Carlos Belizaire Bussette went to be with Our Lord this past Friday August 29, 2008 having lived 91 years. Having been an exceptional athlete himself he competed in the 100-200 flat meter competitions and the 4×100 meter relay in his youth. He was professor of physical education in several schools in the old Canal Zone like Cocolí, Howard and Diablo. He also taught at Abel Bravo College (High School), the National Institute and the Institute of Fermin Naudeau.
All told he dedicated about 40 years of his life to training hundreds of young people to participate in Central American national games and in the Caribbean Olympics, and the Bolivarian Games. Many of the athletes trained by Maestro Belizaire won medals for our country. In addition, he helped more than 30 Panamanian athletes in obtaining university scholarships thereby improving their academic and life skills. This was a feature that marked Belizaire, a very demanding teacher as well as coach who truly believed in academic excellence. Athletes like Lloyd LaBeach, Frank Prince, Manuel Rivas, Felipe Malcolm and Cirilo McSween and Lilia Wilson among others, were all trained by him.
He was a veteran of World War II and in his personal life he was a very dedicated family man. His funerary service will be held today, Wednesday September 3, in Don Bosco Church in Calidonia at 2 P.M. He is survived by his loving wife of 55 years, Andrea Alfaro de Belizaire (a retired nurse), and four daughters, Delmarie, Yolanda, Leyda, and Noris. He is also survived by Mario Belizaire, his nephew (Washington, D.C.) his sister Bernice Belizaire (New York), grandchildren, great grandchildren, nephews and nieces.
We cannot honor our forefathers like Carlos Belizaire Bussette enough in these modern dizzying times. More than just a trainer of athletes he was a personal friend to many of the young boys and girls that he coached and was ever ready to listen to them and their individual troubles and preoccupations as well as celebrate their victories with them. Even Lloyd LaBeach was crushed by the news that Prof. Belizaire would not be able to join him in training for the London Olympic Games, as I recounted in a previous post. It was the immortal Coach Belizaire who could always bring out the best in him.
Carlos Belizaire as well as all those athletes and coaches of yesteryear who paved the way in Sports in a very unconcerned Panama that, even today, remains as unconcerned and abusive to athletes as in those historic times of the 1930’s and 40’s, have taught us all a lesson. Time, it seems, has not changed the Panamanian Sports Federation and the Panamanian Olympic Committee which continue to emotionally ignore all colored athletes and especially Westindian youth despite their achievement in the classroom or on the field.
This was especially brought home in the shameful and appalling attitude assumed by some members of the Panamanian Olympic Committee in arbitrarily denying financial as well as technical support to the few chosen athletes slated to compete in the Beijing Olympics. The world, as well as many people of conscience here in Panama, is still outraged by the egotism and stolidity still present in these important athletic organizations.
It is our hope that the youth involved in sports today and all those of us who support their promise will rise up in protest and demand reparation for all the years of rejection and neglect. Our Silver pantheon is filled with the souls of those who have excelled and have been patient as their forefathers once were. Their Spirits are crying out for the honor and recognition they deserve, as they traversed the path of a young lifetime full of hope and energy. It is never too late to duly honor our great immortal heroes.
This story continues.