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Olympic Medalist Tells Story Of Kayaking From Cuba To Florida

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Earlier this month, 10 American kayakers left Cuba in an attempt to cross the Florida Straits to Key West. Earlier this month, 10 American kayakers left Cuba in an attempt to cross the Florida Straits to Key West.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

Earlier this month, 10 American kayakers left Cuba in an attempt to cross the Florida Straits to Key West. One of those kayakers is a former Oklahoma resident and Olympic gold medalist.

The voyage was organized to raise awareness about Cuba and the changes happening there. The adventure was not only a physical challenge, but one that helped build relations with Cubans.

It took these kayakers 113 miles and 34 hours to paddle from Havana to Key West. A long, and at times, grueling journey to celebrate the continued growth towards diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Before they took off,  the group met with Cuban business owners to build the ties between America.

“I think when the organizers started to plan this trip in the beginning of 2015, they never could have imagined the evolution and the speed of how that relationship between the United States and Cuba would develop,” Joe Jacobi said.

The kayakers left from Havana at the beginning of September, and were lead to sea by the Cuban Olympic sprint canoe/kayak team.

“There is something about the water that brings us all together,” he said.

For 1992 Olympic gold medalist Jacobi, this trip brought on a whole new challenge.

His training switched from quick sprints to endurance.

“To go from a two minute paddle to a 34 hour paddle was a huge change. To change my technique, I had to change my mindset,” he said.

Jacobi believes the symbolism was more important that the journey itself.

As they approach the Key West shoreline he hoped to keep the excitement of the growing relationship between Cuba and America alive, honoring the new friendship, Jacobi said.

“The Cuban spirit is so alive and so well. They are so excited about this new partnership, this new relationship with the United States,” he said.

The trip's organizer want to make the trip an annual event where people are able to challenge themselves physically while connecting to new cultures.

The trip was part of "Cotopaxi's Challenge 113," which was established to highlight the beauty of Cuba while helping local entrepreneurs grow their businesses through donations.

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