Queen's Baton Relay: Belize's first Commonwealth triathlete
- 1 May 2014
In 2013, 33-year-old Kent Gabourel was crowned winner of the Lionman, the biggest triathlon in Belize, and qualified for a place at Glasgow 2014.
His home, Ambergris Caye, is a small island 90 minutes by boat from Belize City.
The tiny cobbled streets of the town are populated with golf carts and holidaymakers. However, the idyllic, laid back facade hides the reality of a community that is struggling with gangs and drugs.
Last year, Belize was named the sixth most violent country in the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
I soon find out that fighting this situation is exactly what motivates Kent.
He picked up the triathlon after finishing his career as a footballer recently, and is realistic about his hopes for the games.
"My best hope is to do a good race, finish well and represent my country. When I get back, I want to nurse that, to carry on racing triathlon, into our neighbours Guatemala and Mexico, and drag some of my kids along with me."
'Good role model'
He isn't talking about his own children, but the many teenagers who he voluntarily coaches and mentors through sport.
"They are the future for me. They are my students, as well as my training partners and motivators. I work with kids that have dropped out of school and are getting into that drug life, that night life, gangster stuff - I guide them on another path," Kent adds.
He has the advantage of having a father who was a national soccer legend, and credits him with being a good role model and introducing him into sport. After being the island's football captain for 10 years, Kent also has the respect of the community to carry on with his social work in sport.
"Drugs and gangs are the main things that I worry about, they deeply affect our community. I hate to see young guys throwing away their lives in such a manner. So I try and get them to come over onto the sports side," he explained.
When it comes to his triathlon training, Ambergris Caye is far from ideal. All of the roads outside the town are dirt and sand. He trains on a heavy beach cruiser bicycle that has one fixed gear, fat tyres and no brakes.
"The only tarmac that I have to train on is the airstrip, it is 1500m - sometimes I get access to it, but that is in the small hours of the morning, when it is dark. After that I have to jump on my beach cruiser bike, to do more mileage as there are planes landing during the day," he told me.
"I have been focusing on getting my technique better at swimming. For me, that is the main part where I lose time. We swim in the sea and there are a lot of boats.
"Cycling here is terrible and the running is also not smooth, you have to watch out for your ankles.
"I don't have it like the professional guys, the training is very rough, but this is the resources that I have, so I learn to adjust myself and use it to the best of my ability.
"Training in those bikes, I have to push more as it's so heavy and with one big gear. So when I convert to a road bike, it feels very easy for me. I don't really have the cadence, but I do have the power."
The cold water and the tarmac roads of a triathlon in Scotland will be the toughest race of Kent's life.
He may be a novice when it comes to international triathlon, but coming to Glasgow 2014 will be a win in itself.
A win, not just for Kent, but for the legacy that he is building at home in Belize too.