Belfast base for 2012 Cuba boxers
The world-famous Cuban boxing team will train in Northern Ireland ahead of the London Olympics, Stormont's Sports Minister has announced.
The latest generation of gold medal hopefuls from the Caribbean island will base themselves in Belfast this summer.
Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said their decision represented a huge coup for the region.
She said: "Cuba's boxers have dominated the sport at an amateur level. I am looking forward to welcoming these athletes here as they prepare for the Olympics. This is the most successful nation in Olympic boxing - they have won 40 gold medals since 1972 and we hope they will add to that total in 2012.
"Of course, here in the north we have our own proud tradition of boxing at the very highest levels. This part of the world has nurtured some of the best fighters ever to step into the ring - like Cuba, we have punched well above our weight."
The minister made the announcement at the Holy Trinity Boxing Club in west Belfast.
"As well as giving Cuban athletes a springboard to success, it is my hope that hosting Cuba will inspire local boxers to achieve their best," she said.
"That is why I am here at Holy Trinity Boxing Club, to underline the impact this will have at a grassroots level. This will create a legacy which will last long after the 2012 Olympics and resonate well into the future."
Olympic silver medal winner Wayne McCullough said it was a great achievement for his native city.
"Having had a Cuban trainer guide me through my Olympic journey and having met one in the final, I know that the Cubans are traditionally known as the best boxers in the world, so it's an amazing achievement to welcome the world's best boxing team, the Cuban boxers, to train here," he said.