First published in Granma Internacional on 16 August.
CUBA won the most medals among Latin American and Caribbean countries in the 30th Olympic Summer Games, though Jamaica, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Venezuela and Mexico put on brilliant performances in London as well, leading to high hopes for the next time around, the first Olympics to be held in South America, Río de Janeiro 2016.
Cuba (placing 16th in the London medal count) regained the lead in Latin American medals after being replaced by Brazil in Beijing 2008, with five gold medals, two from boxers Robeisy Ramírez and Roniel Iglesias. Cuban boxing, which did not win a single title four years ago, recovered the prestige it has always enjoyed, as one of the best schools on the planet.
The Cuban delegation was left without gold medals in athletics, sadly disappointed by the injury of Olympic champion and world record holder Dayron Robles, in the 110-meter hurdles.
In addition to the five gold, Cuba won three silver medals and six bronze. Jamaica came in just behind Cuba, with Usain Bolt and a team of excellent runners, both male and female, putting on a grand show.
Jamaica finished 18th in the medal count (12 medals total, four of each), thanks mostly to Bolt’s performance, with the double three, as his phenomenal three gold medals in two Olympics, has been dubbed. (100m, 200m and 4x100m relay).
Usain Bolt happily took on the role of living legend, never missing the opportunity to joke or show off his eccentricities, with the charisma which made him one of the most popular figures of the Games – in addition to setting a world record.
Brazil, 22nd in the international medal count, came in third among Latin American countries, but short of its high hopes.
Brazilian athletes won 17 medals, three gold, which represents little progress as compared to the 15 won in Beijing and less than the 20 set as a goal.
The country’s national secretary of high performance sports, Ricardo Leyser, anticipates that the country should be able to win 25 to 30 in 2016, to place among the Top 10 in the medal count. The London Games allowed for a small step in that direction.
Their setbacks garnered as much attention as their victories, especially the men’s volleyball loss to Russia in the final.
The country’s biggest disappointment was in football, which, on the other hand, provided Mexico, the winners, with the most satisfaction.
Neymar couldn’t match the artillery of Oribe Peralta and the tricolor team won its first football gold in Olympic history, 2-1, in Wembley Stadium.
Mexico came away with a total of seven medals, three silvers and three bronzes along with the football gold. Diver Paola Espinosa joined the exclusive club of Mexican athletes who have won medals in consecutive Olympic Games, taking silver in the 10-meter platform synchronized diving event, with Alejandra Orozco.
Other Latin American countries which had their best Olympic performances ever included Colombia, with eight medals, one gold, thanks to Mariana Pajón in BMX cycling.
Pajón joined weight-lifter María Isabel Urrutia, Sydney 2000 champion, as the only Colombians to have won Olympic gold medals.
The Dominican Republic gave the world an image which will be long remembered in Olympic lore, a tearful Félix Sánchez, winning the gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles, at almost 35 years of age.
Sánchez added this gold to his first, won in Athens 2004, to become the oldest athlete to win an Olympic race.
If Sánchez represents his country’s sporting history, the present and the future of athletics there lies with Luguelín Santos. The 18-year-old speedster won a silver medal in the 400 meters in his first Olympic appearance.
"One gold and one silver is historic for our sport and marvelous for our country,"
Sánchez told the press.
"Baseball is our national sport, but we have many athletes training hard now, we have a bright future," he said.
Venezuela was pleased with fencer Rubén Limardo’s gold medal, the country’s first in 44 years, since boxer Francisco "Morochito" Rodríguez won his in Mexico 1968.
Argentina was another Latin American country to win a gold in London, thanks to Sebastián Crismanich, in tae kwon do.
In all, the Argentine delegation won four medals, among them the silver won by the women’s field hockey team and Juan Martín del Potro’s hard-won bronze in tennis.
Jaime Espinal won Puerto Rico a silver in Greco-Roman wrestling and Javier Culson, a bronze, in the 400-meter hurdles.
Guatemala won its first medal ever, with Erik Barrondo taking the silver in the 20 kilometer walk. The athlete reported that he had to buy his parents a television so they could watch the race, the biggest investment of his life.
"This is the greatest blessing life has given me," Barrondo said, with the medal hanging on his chest, "It’s a great joy for a country which has suffered so much, but has dreamed a great deal, as well."
The United States once again won the games with a total of 104 medals, while Canada took home 18, one gold. • (SE)
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
1. United States 46 29 29 104
2. China 38 27 22 87
3. United Kingdom 29 17 19 65
4. Russia 24 25 33 82
5. South Korea 13 8 7 28
6. Germany 11 19 14 44
7. France 11 11 12 34
8. Italy 8 9 11 28
9. Hungary 8 4 5 17
10. Australia 7 16 12 35
11. Japan 7 14 17 38
12. Kazakhstan 7 1 5 13
13. Holland 6 6 8 20
14. Ukraine 6 5 9 20
15. New Zealand 6 2 5 13
16. CUBA 5 3 6 14