Monday, August 6, 2012

London Calling: One Hour of Glory

The London Games are shaping up to be one of the most successful Olympics for Latin American athletes. The strongest proof of this occurred on Monday when six competitors from the region won medals all in the short span of one hour.

At the Olympic Stadium, Dominican sprinter Felix Sánchez captured the gold medal in the men’s 400-meter hurdles with a time of 47.63 seconds. The 34-year-old runner, who won in the same event in 2004, coincidentally clocked the same time that gave him gold eight years ago in Athens.

“I just wanted to make her proud so I’ve got her name on my spikes,” said Sánchez in dedicating his win to his grandmother who died while he was competing in the Olympics in 2008. As seen in the images in the video below, Sánchez wept openly after running with a picture of his grandmother under his uniform and then while on the medal stand:

Sánchez wasn’t the only Latin American to shine in the men’s 400-meter hurdles finals. Javier Culson won bronze and thus became the first Puerto Rican to achieve an Olympics medal in a sport outside of boxing.

The runner from Ponce was a favorite to win the race and according to The Guardian “in his eyes there were tears as the 28-year-old stared in disbelief” for finishing third. Nevertheless, he received plenty of adulation via Twitter from Boricuas including Gov. Luis Fortuño and Calle 13 musician René “Residente” Pérez.

Minutes after Sánchez and Culson won their respective medals, Cuban wrestler Mijain López successfully defended his gold medal in the men's 120-kg Greco-Roman wrestling. The four-time world champion beat Heiki Nabi of Estonia by scores of 2-0 and 1-0 in order to retain his Olympics title.

“Cuban supporters cheered wildly as Lopez did a lap of honor of the packed arena with his country's flag draped over his shoulders,” according to Reuters on the crowd’s reception to the man who was Cuba’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremonies.

From the wrestling mat we return to the athletics track where Liguelin Santos completed a historic double for the Dominican Republic. The eighteen-year-old became the youngest man to medal in the men’s 400-meter dash after finishing second with a time of 44.46 seconds.

According to ABC Online “world junior champion Santos, the third fastest man this year, was billed as main rival (to eventual gold medal winner Kirani James of Grenada) due to the absence of (defending champion LaShawn) Merritt but he never looked like seriously threatening”. Nevertheless, Santos has a promising career ahead and should be viewed as a favorite to win gold in Rio in 2016.

Nearly sixty minutes after Sánchez won gold, Yarisley Silva of Cuba earned second place in the women’s pole vault.

Silva cleared 4.75m along with Jennifer Suhr of the U.S. but the Cuban was awarded the silver medal since she had missed one more jump than Suhr.

Five medals by five athletes in the space of sixty minutes. Day ten of the 2012 Summer Games was surely one of the most historic and memorable in the history of Latin American sports.

In other notable results from Monday:

  • Brazilian gymnast Arthur Zanetti achieved a major upset and surprisingly won gold at the men’s rings competition.
  • Mexican-American pugilist Marlen Esparza beat Venezuela’s Karlha Magliocco in the Olympics debut of women’s boxing.
  • The Argentine men’s basketball team was blown out by the U.S. by a score of 126-97; thus, setting up a tough quarterfinals match-up against Brazil.
  • Natalia Duco finished tenth in the women’s shot put though she became the first Chilean in twenty years to reach the final round of a track and field event.
(Note: The medal-winning events from Latin American and Caribbean athletes this past weekend will be covered on Tuesday.)

Video Source– YouTube via Reuters

Online Sources –, SBS, ABC Online, The Guardian,, BBC Sport, La Tercera, Reuters, WNYC

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