Through an Athlete's Eyes: Veronica's Experience

Las Justas de la Liga Atlética Universitaria (LAI), the yearly intercollegiate sports competition in Puerto Rico, took place in Ponce from the 22nd to the 28th of April this year 2019. Every college athlete prepares all year long for this moment, to compete, represent, and win glory for his or her own university.

Veronica Guzmán Velazquez is an athlete in the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She’s a member of the UPR Dance Team. As soon as she entered her first year of university, she entered this long journey of passion for the arts and began practicing for the dance team ever since August 2018. Veronica tells us of her experience along the way in preparation for the long-awaited dance competition in Las Justas on the 25th of April 2019.

“It was something very surreal, just to be there that day. It’s just like my brother told me. Preparing for a whole year for just one day is really tough, but I made it. It was very exciting, but there were arduous days of hours and hours of rehearsal. We rehearsed on Sundays from 9:00am-1:00 pm, weekdays from 5:30-10:30 pm, and on Holy Week we rehearsed all week long. Dancing is something that you have to do if you’re passionate about it because doing something that you’re not passionate about, having it take most of your time away from you, is hurtful at the end. You can’t do that.”

As hard-working as she is, Veronica decided to go with her passion, even if it meant to sacrifice time with her family and friends.

“In my case, ever since the beginning, I’ve always loved dancing and I’ve always told myself: ‘I can do this.’ It was very hard because I am a family girl, I love my family to the moon and back, and it was difficult to not be with them at times. The university is in Río Piedras, I live in Las Piedras, my family is from Villalba, and it was hard, but I had to make those sacrifices of not being able to see them so that I could participate in Las Justas and be there that day to compete and fight for what I want.”

Veronica practiced all year long, gave her best at every rehearsal, and prepared for the expected day of April 28, 2019. At last, the day came; it was her time to shine on the dance floor in the Coliseo Pachín Vicens in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

“When that day came...it was really an unexplainable sensation. When one is dancing, weird nerves start to come up; it’s a good kind of nervous, but at the same time you’re thinking, ‘If I fuck up, I’m dead’ because you only have one chance to do the dance routine. You’ve practiced the dance over and over again every day at rehearsal, and if you did a mistake, you could do it again in rehearsal, but not in the competition. There’s no going back. I felt the nerves of my dance partners, I felt their energy, the team’s connection from the coaches to ourselves, and it truly was an incredible feeling. After you dance, all you can think about is ‘That was it? We’re done?’ We practiced all year for only 2 minutes of a dance routine. Yes, there were a lot of sacrifices. It was worth it when we won the gold medal for the jazz category. There was an immense feeling of happiness that surrounded us. We cried out in joy and all we could think about is that we did it, it was all worth it. When we won second place in the championship, we burst out with glee too. Apart from that, we knew that we could have done a lot better than we did, but we still gave our all, and it was thanks to the coaches in pushing us hard because they knew we had potential.”

The competition ended with the UPR-RP taking first place in the jazz category, fourth place in the hip-hop category, and second place in the championship. This isn’t the last time we’ll see or hear from Veronica Guzman because she, along with her dance teammates, will come with all their power for next year, and as a spectator in this dance competition, I am truly convinced that they will.  

“Being able to compete as a first-year student in Las Justas was something out of this world. The dance team became like my second family, and I am very grateful to belong to the UPR Dance Team. I know that we’re going to be even more prepared for next year and both gold medals will be for us. We will come with everything we got.”