044 : CAMBIO EN COZUMEL
Castillo works as a mentor with some of the local Cozumel kids as part of Team TBB's social project, using sport to help Quintana Roo youth to stay away from drugs, violence and a sedentary lifestyle.
with varying levels of success. Bok tried to lift his chain of retail tri shops in
Asia off the ground, and although the shops failed, the social projects live on.
Team TBB’s TriCozumel is already seeing greater success. With the help of
a local investor and an initiative interlocking the pro team, a training venue
and a youth program have taken flight at one of Team TBB’s new training
bases in Cozumel, Mexico.
MUCH OF THE GREASE THAT LUBRICATES THINGS IN COZUMEL comes from
Cuban-born Jorge Valdés. A friend of Valdés’ in Miami was being coached by
a budding pro triathlete out of Colombia, and that athlete—Andres Castillo—
was looking to get on board with Team TBB. “I told Jorge, ‘Send him over here
to Leysin, Switzerland, and we’ll see what we can do.’”
Valdés soon flew over to check in on Castillo. He met Sutton, and the two
began talking about social change in triathlon. “We talked about our team
projects, and Valdés said, ‘I have my own nonprofit back in Mexico.’ I said,
‘Why don’t we develop a prototype social program in Mexico?’”
The original model was with Reinaldo Collucci over a decade ago. The suc-
cessful Brazilian pro was part of a youth program Sutton initiated in Brazil.
The project was twofold: get kids out of the favelas and onto the track, provid-
ing them with goals beyond being slum kids. But it also served as a way for
Sutton to identify latent talent. Today, Collucci has the status of having repre-
sented Brazil in the Olympics and is the face of the sport in his home country.
The trio of Valdés, Sutton and Bok—which Sutton refers to as the “odd
threesome”—sat over four days to flesh out what would become TriCozumel,
a program to encourage children in the Cozumel region to get off the streets
and into classrooms, be physically active, steer clear of drugs and avoid obesity. Triathlon was the vehicle, but competition wasn’t the motive. “We took
bits of what we learned with our programs in Brazil and the Philippines, and
took what Jorge knew, and rolled out the program,” Sutton says. The result
was a TBB Mexico segment of its team, which would be based in Cozumel
and serve as mentors for the youth program. That group consists of South
African James Cunnama, Great Britain’s Jodie Swallow, Castillo, and young
French athletes Anne Basso and Trevor Delsaut.
Today, 40 kids reside in the TriCozumel program, receiving basic fitness
programs from Team TBB coaches and athletes and achievement merits within the program. “We divided the program by the colors of the Mexican flag—
white, green and red—and the kids earn points to move levels. Do they come to
practice every day? Bring a friend? What’s their attitude at the track?” As they
gain merits they move to green tier, and learn practical skills, like how to swim.