I only caught snatches of the television coverage of the Summer Olympics while away over the past two weeks. But even with that, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the performance of Latin American and Caribbean athletes in the Games.
London 2012 was very kind to the region.
Both Guatemala and Grenada won their first medals ever. That's Guatemala's Erick Barrondo above, who won a silver in the 20 kilometer race walk. Colombia won four times more medals than ever before. And Caribbean nations continued their inexorable rise in track and field.
Mexico captured the gold medal in soccer, the world’s most popular sport. Brazil snared more medals than ever before as it sambas toward 2016 when it plays host to the Summer Games.
The only negative in the Games was Cuba’s slide as an Olympic power. Its vaunted sports machine, like the nation itself, needs an overhaul. Cuba claimed 14 medals, which is nothing to sneer at. But looked at over the past two decades, the outcome was decidedly mediocre. At the Barcelona Games in 1992, Cuba won 31 medals. In the 1996 Atlanta Games, it garnered 25 medals. In Sydney, it captured 29 medals. In Athens in 2004, it won 26 medals. At the 2008 Beijing Games, it got 24 medals.
So it’s a pretty sharp slide. I’ll never forget riding a bus in Havana in the mid 1990s once. Most passengers wore somewhat shabby clothing and were skinny. Then athletes got on the bus. They looked incredibly well-fed and muscular.
Even countries that took home no medals from London stole a bit of the spotlight. Take Chile. Gymnast Tomas Gonzalez got a ton of publicity, not only because he was the first Chilean gymnast to qualify but also because of his natty little moustache. Check out this English language article on the “27 Things to Love About Tomas Gonzalez.”
Grenada’s government decreed a half day off work after its sprinter Kirani James won gold in the 400 meters. Trinidad’s prodigy in the javelin, 19-year-old Keshorn Walcott, claimed his Caribbean nation’s first field gold medal.
And Jamaica, wow! They just get better and better. Jamaica claimed four medals back in 1992. Now their total is three times higher at 12. And they have proven they have the best sprinters on the planet led by Usain Bolt, the fastest man anywhere.
Then, other islands also have great track stars, among them Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic (part of Hispaniola).
Here's a selection of AP photos of Latinos and Latinas. They include a moment after the Mexican soccer victory and young Trinidadian javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott. Above left is a photo of Colombian BMX cycling gold medalist Mariana Pajon.