Anyone who heard Gonzalos Galdos' story had to feel that a special medal -- regardless of performance -- should be awarded to the men's basketball team of Peru, for demonstrating the highest order of international spirit.
Galdos, a team member, said the San Aguistan University men pleaded with the nation's government for months, unsuccessfully, to finance their trip to the World University Games. Determined to come anyway, the team sponsored bingo games, parties and basketball festivals to raise money.
The team didn't raise much money, but the air force decided to fly them last Monday from Lima to Washington, D.C. There the odyssey began. The nine players were on their own, (the coach had returned home to be with his mother, who had become ill), and only Galdos spoke English.
On Tuesday, the team took a bus from D.C. to Buffalo, caught another bus to Toronto Wednesday night, but arrived in Toronto too late to catch the last bus to Edmonton.
"We didn't have any money for hotels," Galdos said today, "so we walked the streets of downtown Toronto all night." Thursday morning, they boarded the bus to Edmonton and arrived Friday at 1 p.m.
Then they found they lacked accreditation because Universiade officials had been told to expect the women's team. After five hours of being accredited, the team went straight to practice, without dinner.
About 15 hours later, early Saturday, they lost to Lebanon, 104-87. Galdos, one of the best players, is about 6-foot-3.They lost again to the U.S., 134-25, late Saturday night in the Universiade Pavilion.
"It was worth the trip," Galdos said. "It is a most incredible experience for us. We really enjoy participating in the competition. For many of us, it's the first time we've left Peru."
There is one catch: the men from Peru don't have any money to get home.