VENEZUELAN Samuel Eduardo Negrín Piñerua dreams of one day representing TT in the sport of taekwondo in international competitions.
Piñerua, 17, has been training since he was four years old and migrated to this country with his parents in 2015.
“The socioeconomic problems of Venezuela forced us to make decisions for the future of Samuel,” said his father Gabriel Negrin.
As a family, in Venezuela they had a design and advertising company.
“His mother (Aylema Piñerua) and I decided to start looking for the path that our son wanted, hence the idea to come to TT to learn the language first, (TT) being the closest English-speaking country we had to Venezuela,” Gabriel said.
They first came to TT on vacation to learn more about the country and evaluate the possibilities of returning.
“We found an English school (Northern Technology) and we came a few months later as students. From there we decided to settle in TT,” added the father.
Over the months, the family faced challenges and the parents had to get several jobs to be able to stay. His father was eventually hired as a graphic designer by a local company.
Once they got settled, Piñerua’s parents contacted the TT Taekwondo Federation to continue his training regime.
“They treated us very well in the federation, from the beginning they opened the doors to continue my personal growth and I started training with the Team A school that is part of the International Taekwondo Federation,” said Piñerua.
Within two years, he was able to climb the ranks and at 14, he earned a black belt which qualified him to be a teacher in the combat sport.
He later joined the Ariapita Taekwondo school, which was directed by Prof Nicholas Dusar. But after a few months the coach had to leave TT and put Piñerua as a teacher in charge.
In 2018, Piñerua decided to open his own school, with his father’s help, in San Juan called Lightning Taekwondo and registered with the local federation. He trains ten boys and girls and a woman.
They also opened a branch at the YMCA headquarters, Port of Spain, where they serve another group of athletes. Registration at both venues is constantly open.
This journey led Piñerua to participate in several local taekwondo competitions, winning several championships. In 2018, he placed first at the Dragon’s Cup tournament, at the National Cycling Federation, Couva.
“I am representing TT, in fact, I have participated in international events held in TT carrying the local flag.”
However, since he does not have a TT passport, he has not been able to go to competitions in other countries. He and his parents received registration cards in the 2019 amnesty.
Piñerua’s legal situation is a stone in his path.
“Representing TT is possible, I have talked with my family and it would be an honour for me to go to other countries wearing the shield and colours of TT, it is only a matter of legal procedures,” added the young man.
Piñerua is not only a taekwondo master, he also has a TV show on Synergy TV. He is the host of Tambien se habla Español (Also speak Spanish) and his father is the editor, and his mother is a camera operator. The entertainment programme, which deals with topics to help the Latino community, has been on air for seven months and is broadcast on Sundays at 8 pm and Mondays at 9 pm.
It was his taekwondo skills which led him to cable TV.
“We did an interview for a morning show because of my advances in taekwondo, but the channel director proposed to have a space on TV and the idea was born from there,” said Piñerua.
The sport, however, is his passion and his goal is to nurture local athletes who have the potential to win at the international level.