Top 10 Cuban Athletes in 2016
Top 10 Cuban Athletes in 2016
There is nothing new in writing about the crisis faced by Cuban sports. The results in single and team sports have drastically fallen over the past five years, the hiring policy in professional leagues has not stopped the exodus of athletes and, as another dark spot in the unpleasant scenario, five of the best volleyball players from the national team were given prison sentences in Finland for having raped a woman.
Despite all these problems, the Cuban delegation that attended Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games delivered good performances and finished 18th, with 11 medals, five of which were golden.
PanamericanWorld proposes an approach to the Cuban athletes that stood out in 2016. This list includes the Olympic champions from Rio, but there is also space for great ball player like Aroldis Chapman and Alfredo Despaigne, as well as Grandmaster Leinier Dominguez, described as the best chess player in Latin America.
Mijain Lopez (Greco-Roman Wrestling)
It was the third time in a row. This strong wrestler, Greco-Roman style, carried the flag of the Cuban Olympic delegation during the opening ceremony. All Cuban eyes were focused on him during the Rio edition of the Games and he showed his superiority, since his rivals didn’t score a single point. The final combat was unforgettable, against Turkish Riza Kayaalp, when Lopez applied a spectacular attack technique and floored the only rival that had been capable of defeating him in over a lustrum. Mijain’s third Olympic title confirms him as one of the greatest sports legends in the Caribbean country.
Idalys Ortiz (Judo)
The Olympic champion during the London Games was labeled as one of the favorite judokas in the +78 kg division in Río. Her way up to the gold wasn’t easy at all, but she made to the final, against French Emil Andeol. That was an intense fight that went to extra time, when the European athlete prevailed over the Cuban one. Besides this silver medal, Ortiz won Mexico’s Master tournament and the Grand Prix editions held in Havana, Mongolia and Kazakhstan.
Julio Cesar la Cruz (Boxing)
His fans call him “the shadow”, because this 81 kg man is untouchable in the ring. He keeps his guard down in front of his rivals and, as soon as they get desperate, he hits them. This is a controversial fighting style, but La Cruz has made the most of it and he got in Rio the only title missing in his successful career. As a member of Domadores de Cuba franchise, La Cruz won his five fights and contributed to the team’s victory in the 6th edition of the World Boxing Series.
Robeisy Ramirez (Boxing)
This boxer established an Olympic record in Rio: no fighter had ever conquered two crowns in Olympic events before the age of 23. Ramirez was great at the South American city and, in the final round, he defeated U.S. Shakur Stevenson 2-1. In the World Series, Ramirez won his four fights and also contributed to the success of Domadores.
Arlen Lopez (Boxing)
This 75 kg fighter, world champion in Doha 2015, strengthened his position in the division and stood out in Rio. This great performance was complemented by the result obtained in the World Series, where he established a record of wins (6) before the five-round limit. Therefore, Lopez closes 2016 on top of the world ranking, with 14 wins and no defeat.
Ismael Borrero (Greco-Roman Wrestling)
This wrestler, Greco-Roman style, was one of the Cuban delegation’s surprises in Rio. His speed and impeccable technique guided him up to victory.
Aroldis Chapman (Baseball)
The fastest pitcher in the history of MLB got his first champion ring in the World Series. The season began with the wrong foot for Chapman, since he was suspended due to a domestic violence incident and miss the first month of the championship with the Yankees. Afterwards, the executives decided to send the Cuban player to the Chicago Cubs, National League. Chapman certainly thanked the transfer because he closed games for the best team in 2016. In the Fall Classic, against the Cleveland Indians, the Cuban pitcher’s performances were outstanding, especially in the fifth and sixth games of that series; moreover, he won the seventh game when the Cubs left the “goat’s curse” behind and conquered their first crown in 108 years. All in all, in the 2016 season, Chapman saved 36 games and delivered 90 strikeouts, in 58 innings.
Alfredo Despaigne (Baseball)
In his third season playing in the Japanese professional, with Chiba Lotte Marines, the Cuban slugger achieved his best numbers. He played 134 games, with 24 HRs and 92 RBIs, 280, slugging 480 and OBP 361. These numbers are likely to give him a new megabuck contract in the Asian country.
Denia Caballero (Athletics)
This discus thrower, world champion in Beijing 2015, got the bronze medal in Rio with 65.34 meters. Moreover, she finished third in the Diamond League and won the gold in Queretaro and Leiria.
Leinier Dominguez (Chess)
The best Latin American chess player had his finest performance in the Baku Olympic event, by winning the silver medal. Besides, as part of the Sestao Fundación, Dominguez won the Spanish Clubs Championship and he will see the year off while standing in the Top 25 of FIDE’s world ranking.