Influencer Ruthsel Martina
Interview September 2020
Could you share with us some information of your family life?
I was born and raised in Curaçao, in the Santa Rosa area. I am married and I have 2 children, one son whom lives and studied in Holland and a daughter that has studied in Puerto Rico. I come from a family of 10 of which 5 brothers and 5 sisters. One of my brothers and one of my sisters passed away. Both my mother and father have passed away. Bot were very helpful in the person I have become right now. My father was a carpenter and I used to go along with my father and by helping him I learned his profession. My mother was a housemother that raised the children, the old way, she would discipline us the hard way, which I have in hindsight no problem with. I grew up to be a valuable member of this community.
Who had inspired you to get in the track and field, as you yourself were an athlete?
One of my brothers, the second-oldest brother, Joseph Martina has inspired me at lot. He was a big local very renowned baseball and software player. He stimulated me to get involved into sports. I used to go and practice baseball and then ran back home and came home totally exhausted and my mother used to advised me to stop doing that. Until I started practicing Track and Filed at the age of 16 years and started winning competitions and bringing home all my trophies. She stopped doing that and became very proud of me I have to say, because when I wanted to get my trophies back as I was leaving my elderly home, she wanted to keep them for me.
I used to be a middle distance expert. I competed in the 400 meters, 800 meters, 1500 meters, 5 km and 10 km distances. I have participated in half Marathon and full Marathon, like this time I ran one half-marathon in San Blas Puerto Rico, but I was a painful and exhausting experience. I decided after that race, to not compete in these long distances anymore.
When did you start with track and field?
I started my track and field career in my “bario” team Trupial when I was 16 years old as this was close to home. This is important because lot of potential youngsters interested in track and field have to overcome a big challenge, and that is the necessary transportation to the training facilities if it isn’t close to home. We had and still have this issue, as youngsters lose their interest in Track and Field if the transport to reach the training facilities is too much of a dazzle. But fortunately nowadays, this issue has been more or less resolved as some parents bring their children to the training themselves.
You are now a Track and field trainer in all disciplines or do you have a discipline that you focus on?
Yes, I am now a general Track and Field trainer, but my specialization is in on the middle and long distances.
Now you are also an executive in sports and you have been the chef de mission of the first delegation that competed under the Curaçao flag, how important is this for you?
Yes, I am now a member of the Curaçao Olympic Committee. I have presided over the Olympic team and in 2018, I was the chef de Mission as we attended as Curaçao the Central American and Caribbean games at Barranquilla, Columbia. In itself, the participation in these games under the Curaçao flag was a very satisfying experience.
This because since 2010 when we became an autonomous country within the Dutch Kingdom, we lost our membership to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as Track and Field organization, as the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved. During 8 years, we had to fight to become a member, as we were only an associate member. This while Aruba is a member of the IOC. So we won the first battle and opened the door so that in the future we can participate every 4 years in these Games.
In terms of our sports achievements in Barranquilla, well we didn’t win any medals, but we considered to be a base-line and as of that moment we will try to start winning medals. Don’t forget that our best athletes compete under the Dutch flag. This is also what you can notice for those talents in Baseball and Soccer btw. I think there is also a tendency for some athletes to go and compete under the Aruba flag, as they are a member of IOC.
Why do you think that our best athletes choose to compete under the Dutch flag?
There are two trends we can discern. The athletes themselves want it, because it gives them an opportunity to compete at the highest levels internationally. At the other hand locally we don’t support these athletes with experienced professional trainers, as the local trainers that are doing this work, do this as volunteers. Furthermore, if there aren’t enough opportunities to compete, let’s say in the short track and field distances, most of them then choose to go to Holland where there are more possibilities to brain guided, to compete and to grow.
At what age did you start to do Track and Field?
Before getting involved into Track and Field I was into weigh lifting. I am now 46 years involved in Track and Field in the meantime, and I started when I was 17 years old. I got involved into weight lifting as I was in Scouting and there they offered weight training and one member in Scouting who was already involved in Track and Field suggested to me to try Track and Field. Why? This guy would ran a certain distance regularly and I noticed that I when I also started running this same distance with him, I was getting closer and closer to him every time we ran this distance. In school, I attended Sint Paulus, when they had competitions where we would run around the school and I would win these. While I was doing this, I was invited by another guy to join the Track and Field team Olympic, but I had to go the Rifstadium to train, which I did and also would win. One year after I started practicing Track and Field, when I was 17 years old, there were these Kingdom games that. I participated in during 3 editions and furthermore I was trained by Wendell Prince by that time and I would compete in the Caribbean area, representing Curaçao. I have competed in different countries over the years like, I participated in the World Championship of Track and Field in Helsinki , I ran in the New Years San Silvestre in Sao Paulo, I participated in the Boulevard race in Aruba. One athlete that I competed against in those days was Ronald Mercelina. He later left ot the Netherlands and continued his career in Track and Field and was very successful btw.
I am grateful for what this sport has offered me, because of the places in the world that it gave me the opportunity to visit and compete, I have followed trainers courses from level 1 till level 4 (level 5 is the highest possible level) with a specialization in the long distances and because of all this I am giving back to the sports nowadays. I am the president of Olympic, this is a team from the “bario” and I am a member of the Olympic Committee in Curaçao.
What is your opinion with regards to school and getting degrees and practicing Track and Field?
I firmly believe that you have to advocate a right balnce between both. Live is a marathon and not 100 meter dash. It is all about planning your time. I was always able to combine my schoolwork with my Track and Field efforts. I have a degree in LTS, MTS and HTS (Bachelor in Engineering) at the UNA. I see that in sports like Baseball there is a trend that talents are scouted and recruited to go to the States while they haven’t finalized their school. We do it differently. We now have in our group a young talented female athlete, that became secoond of the Caribbean last year. We have strongly adviced her and her parents to let her finalize her High School and then continue with her Track and Field career.
Do athletes in the Caribbean have an edge because of their muscle build up?
Yes, atletes in Caribbean have what you call fast switch muscles and this gives them explosive stength that fits well in the shorter distances and high jump of the Track and Field disciplines.
We were referred to you by Desiree Hooi, but what is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?
My BIG WHY is that I believe that we have some basic talents on the island, just like every country. I believe that they need to be developed locally. That is my BIG WHY. To develop local talents in Track and Field to become athletes that can compete internationally. As they reach a certain base level, they hit a ceiling because of lack of more experienced professional trainers and funds. Our facilities are OK, I have seen countries with the worst facilities that excels in the sports. We have seen athletes from the Caribbean achieve great results in international competitions.
I have understood from Erwin Martis who was a co-board member of the Olympic Committee, that Jamaica has chosen Track and Field as their priority sports to allocate their resources and it is paying off, obviously. What is your opinion on this?
Yes, because they combine their own efforts in collaboration with Colleges in the USA, where athletes are recruited to compete for their respective school. This improves substantially the level of competition that they can reach for their own country. The athletes can also opt to become an American. In our case, when our athletes choose to compete under the Dutch flag, these athletes can’t represent Curaçao. These College competitions are highly competitive and there is a lot of pride involved for these Colleges.
Of late some countries stopped some of their athletes to go to these competitions during the months of June and July, as when they had to compete for their own country in August, September, they were too tired.
I believe that the solution to be able to compete internationally should be that, although I know there isn’t a lot of money available, the money that the government is willing to invest in sports through the Olympic Committee, should be allocated to 5 of the sports federations where we have the talents and where we are very good in. The rest of the sport federations, should get some basic sum, but we need to focus and prioritize.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
The biggest challenge is how to develop on the club level some athletes so that we can compete with more success in the CARIFTA games. We once won 7 medals, so it is possible.
Our aim is to select those areas where we have the most chances to win a medal in the 2022 CARIFTA games. This is an achievable goal.
Which are the sports that we can succeed?
We have to choose in Track and Field like the high jump, discuss but also softbal, sailing, cross biking. Like the last time in 2018 two cyclist from Curaçao hit each other hampering their chances to win a medal. As I said, the government needs to distribute the available funds, and give all federations some basic funds but they need to give some extra funds that need some extra money so that we can attract some professional international trainers and some international sport doctors that can help optimize athletes on their way to reach their physical peeks. They need to be here to see how the athletes are preparing themselves so that they can give feedback to improve.
How are you dealing with these challenges?
Well, I am a very resilient person and I never give up, so mentally and up to these challenges to make it work.
How important is the mental part in sports and how do you evaluate the progress of athletes mentally?
I would study the international athletes and see how they would fight their way up especially after a loss as they are aware that their next opportunity might be 4 years later. I study them not only when they are successful. Learning that success is not an overnight thing, as most of us want results tomorrow. Studying these videos inspires me a lot and gives me the energy to keep doing what I do, even though there are days that I want to give up. For the work I am doing as a volunteer trainer the same goes. It is at time mentally a strain, but I have come to learn to not give up easily.
How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
I follow courses onTrack and Fiels on a very regular basis. Because of COVID-19 these possibilities have increased substantially offered by the North and Central America and the Caribbean Track and Field Federation. This you have to keep track of, because forget what you have learned in the past.
What are your strengths?
For me my desire to succeed is more important than the talent, perseverance, overcoming deceptions and falling and standing up again.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
I used to love tabel tennis, but nowadays I love to dance.
If you as Ruthsel would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Holland or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer?
My name Ruthsel Martina I am for Curaçao, I love sports and I am a trainer and sportsleader from Curaçao.
How would you describe Ruthsel in one word or one sentence?
Athlete, sportsleader Ruthsel Martina, reknowned for his perservance.
Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
I would say different people like Norwin Martina, Melwin Vorm, Wendell Prince, Anthony Miguel and Erwin Martis.
What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
Writing English. I can read and speak English, but my writing has to be double-checked by a translator.
What was a defining moment in your life?
Well, that would be the Boulevard Race in Aruba. Somebody that needed to pick me up in the early morning overslept himself. And I was waiting for him and warming up at 7 am a police car came by and saw me. By pure coincidence, I knew that police officer. His name was Miltion Martina and I knew him from Curaçao and those days he was working in Aruba. He stopped and as I explained what was happening, he offered to bring me to the hotel where the race would start and he brought me there with a loud siren. As we arrived the athletes started, I punched in and in the end won the race based on the best time. This was the 3rd year that I won the race, so I won the trophy. I got a trophy, but because I didn’t start with the group, it wasn’t as big as the one they had planned before. That was a defining moment.
Where do you want to be 10 years from now with your career? Or what is the legacy that you want to leave behind when you stop doing what you are doing now?
Personally I will still be involved in Track and Field as a trainer or a board member. My legacy would be a competitve structure, a platform where we prepare our athletes to become their best versions in their area of specialization.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
Ruthsel has contributed greatly to the local Track and Field sports in Curaçao. A lot of athletes started their sports career with him and they have been very successful on an international level.
What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao in the Track and Field area?
We have demonstrated with different athletes that we can compete and be succesful on an international level. I believe that we only need sufficient resources to develop locally our talents. It is just matter of priorities to do this.
Facebook: Curacao Trupial Athletics Club
Facebook: Federashon Deporte i Olímpiko Kòrsou
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Ruthsel Martina is a dedicated, ambitious, athlete, trainer, sports leader in Track and Field who has competed internationally and has headed sport delegations of Curaçao Internationally. Being 46 years involved in track and Field, having travelled a lot as an athlete and sport leader, Ruthsel believes that even though we are a small Island, we can develop athletes locally and make them compete at an international level. That athletes from the island can compete internationally has already been proven by different athletes that have competed successfully internationally. According to Ruthsel it is just a matter of priorities, allocating sufficient resources to create a competitive structure, where we athletes can locally be developed guided by experienced professional trainers and a medical staff to become their best versions in their area of specialization. According to Ruthsel our facilities are OK, he has seen countries with the worst facilities that excel in the sports. Ruthsel: “We have seen athletes from the Caribbean achieve great results in international competitions. We can do the same.” With his perseverance, his stamina and ability to fall and stand up throughout his long career, makes him a stand-out and makes this goal quite achievable. For all these reasons, we deeply love and respect Ruthsel and consider him one of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao representing the Sports sector.