With a harvest of five gold, two silver and four bronze medals Cuba ranked 18th in the overall standings of the 31st Olympic Games Rio 2016 that concluded last Sunday in that Brazilian city
With that performance the Cuban delegation tied the amount of scepters won in London 2012, although that time it finished 16th with 15 medals, including three silver and seven bronze.
In Rio 2016, once again combat sports played the leading role in gaining gold medals, with highlight for boxing with three crowns and Greco-Roman wrestling (2).
Known as Cuba´s flagship in multiple sport events, boxing saw crowned to Julio Cesar La Cruz (81 kg), Robeisy Ramírez (56) and Arlen López (75), trio that masterfully competed at Riocentro Arena.
La Cruz, thrice world champion, initiated the golden booty of the Caribbean nation in this sport when beating 3-0 Kazakh Adilbek Niyasymbetov, London 2012 runner-up.
In the case of Ramirez, who is only 22, he became twice Olympic monarch after winning 2-1 over American Shakur Stevenson.
Arlen Lopez, Doha 2015 universal monarch, proved that that performance was not by chance when defeating 3-0 Uzbek Bektemir Melikuziev.
Boxing also contributed to Cuba’s harvest through the bronze medals won byJohanys Argilagos (49), Erislandy Savón (91)
and Lázaro Álvarez (60), with the latter, who is three-time world monarch, tying his performance in London 2012.
Greco-Roman wrestling provided major joys to Cuba through two scepters earned by Ismael Borrero (59) and Mijaín López (130), while Yasmany Lugo (98) pleasantly surprised everyone with his silver medal.
Borrero, Las Vegas 2015 universal champion, gave no margin to coincidences and with impeccable performance on the mattress provided Cuba the first title in Rio Olympics with an 8-0 win over Japanese Shinobu Ota.
That golden path would be followed by Lopez, who defeated 6-0 to one of his toughest opponents, Turkish Riza Kayaalp, result with which he became one of the few wrestlers holding three gold medals in Olympics.
Standard bearer of the Cuban delegation for the third consecutive time in Olympics, Lopez widened even more his legend and added another laurel to his resume which includes five titles at World Championships.
In the case of Lugo, Toronto 2015 Pan American monarch, he did not believe in the range of his opponents and showed he is ready for further efforts, despite losing in the final.
The brightness shown by Cuban Greco-Roman exponents was very far from the pale performance by their colleagues of the freestyle, who left Rio de Janeiro without winning even a medal.
In judo, Idalys Ortiz (+78) ranked second in the women’s event, and although she did not repeat the title achieved in London 2012, she made history by reaching the Olympic podium for the third time, as she was also bronze medalist in Beijing 2008.
In addition to Ortiz´s silver medal, Cuba was awarded three meritorious fifth seats through Dayaris Mestre (48) and Yalennis Castillo (78) among women, and Alex Garcia (+100) in the men’s event.
Denia Caballero completed the list of Cuban medalists by finishing third in the women´s discus throw, to highlight for the exponents of athletics, sport which was well below expectations.
Yarisley Silva, among the favorites to win a medal in the women’s pole vault, barely concluded seventh, while an injury prevented competing triple jumper Pedro Pablo Pichardo, one of the main hopes for Cuba in track and field.
Athletics reported memorable performances of Cuban competitors, who without climbing the podium were confirmed in the elite of their respective specialties, we are talking about decathlete Leonel Suarez (sixth), heptathlon athlete Yorgelis Rodriguez (seventh) and men’s 4×400 relay (sixth).
It is also worth mentioning the outstanding performance of the men´s beach volleyball pair made up by Sergio Gonzalez and Nivaldo Diaz, who finished fifth, at just a step of reaching the semifinals when losing in hard-fought match to Russians Viacheslav
Krasilnikov and Konstantin Semenov.
It is also impossible to avoid referring to gymnast Manrique Larduet, sixth in horizontal bar and fifth in parallel bars, with good performances in which he showed courage –he competed injured in an ankle- and technical details of his recognized quality.
In track cycling, Marlies Mejías reached a meritorious seventh seat in omnium, while her compatriot Arlenis Sierra completed the best performance by a Cuban cyclist in the women´s individual road race when finishing 28th.
Another outstanding performance corresponded to the London 2012 Olympic champion, Leuris Pupo, who reached again the medals discussion in men´s 25 meters rapid fire pistol, to eventually concluding fifth.
In rowing, the distinctive note was provided by Angel Fournier with his sixth seat in the men´s single sculls, although he did not fulfill his purpose of achieving a medal; while it also excelled the pair of Serguey Torres and Fernando Dayan Jorge with their sixth spot in the men´s canoe sprint C-2 1000 meters.
Thus, among happy moments and some disappointments, the Cuban delegation met its goal of being among the top 20 nations in the standings headed by USA (46-37-38-121), UK (27-23-17-67) and China (26-18-26-70), in the vanguard trio.