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A 28-year-old Cuban-American athlete who finally earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team said he has a message for Fidel Castro and the United States.
"The U.S. has opened its doors to not only my family, but to millions of immigrants that come for a better life, for a dream,” said Manny Huerta. “This is me telling the U.S. thank you."
Huerta, of South Florida, is a triathlete. He competes in what may be the most physically demanding event of the Olympic Summer Games.
His ninth-place finish in a San Diego competition in May earned him one of just two spots on the team.
"I needed the race of my life,” he said after the May event. “I couldn't believe it. It actually happened. I did it."
Finally an Olympian, Huerta finds it hard to believe he has achieved his dream.
"I still pinch myself every morning to see if I'm dreaming, or if it's a reality," he said.
During the London 2012 Olympic Games, he will be swimming 1,500 meters, biking 40 kilometers and running 10 kilometers on the sport's biggest stage.
"I need the race of my life times two," he said.
Huerta spends much of his time 7,000 feet above sea level in the Irazu Volcano Basin in Costa Rica. His coach owns a strawberry farm there.
"By sleeping up there, your body increases the level of red blood cells that carry oxygen, which is a huge plus for an endurance sport,” Huerta said. “Getting to play with lava every once in a while makes you a little tough too, so it's a win-win situation."
Huerta came to the United States from Cuba when he was 13 years old and is happy to represent America.
The Olympian also wants to make his parents proud. His father died of cancer two years ago and his mother is beating a cancer battle of her own. Huerta qualified for the Games on Mother's Day weekend.
"She never gave up, and for me it was an inspiration," he said about her.
Huerta, who has already won a silver medal in the 2011 Pan American Games, now has his biggest opportunity.
"I never gave up on my dream, and now I'm going to get to go to London," he said.
He's hoping to raise enough money from sponsors and donors to bring his mom and sister along with him.