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What’s going on with Cuba in Toronto Panam Games?

What’s going on with Cuba in Toronto Panam Games?

Posted by Miguel Ernesto on July 21, 2015

When there are just a few days left for the 17th edition of the Pan Am Games to come to a close, the Cuban delegation surprisingly occupies the fifth position on the medals table, with 69 medals, 23 of which are golden. The initial forecast of ranking second —a position held by Cuba since the Cali edition, in 1971— won’t be achieved, although perhaps the most worrying aspect is the fact that prevailing over Brazil for the third position seems to be a hard task. What has happened with Cuban sport in Toronto?

The delegation is numerically similar to other editions, but with less medals

Cuba attended the event organized at the Canadian city with a delegation made up of 443 athletes, a figure that is similar to the two previous editions (468 in Rio de Janeiro and 442 in Guadalajara). The number was even higher than the representation in Santo Domingo, in 2003, when the delegation comprised 394 athletes and 72 medals were obtained. Out of the 364 medal sets in Toronto, Cuba only competed for 217 and this reality does look like a problem, since there were more athletes, but fewer medals were taken.

Higher rivalry among the countries

Everybody expected Canada, the venue country, to have a powerful delegation, but the Canadians have undoubtedly surpassed themselves and they are likely to break their historic record: 64 medals in Winnipeg, 1999.

Rivalry in Toronto has been stronger than previous editions of the Games. For example, the United States, a country that has won 14 out of the 16 past editions, is unlikely to reach the 92 gold medals it obtained four years ago in Guadalajara. When analyzing the results obtained over the past editions of the Games, it’s easy to realize that the fight is getting harder, since the US athletes have gone down from 169 medals in 1995 to 92 in 2011.

Furthermore, other countries that are usually ranked in the Top 10 of the Pan Am Games have presently gone beyond any forecast in Toronto. Colombia is the most outstanding example. That country’s sports growth is amazing. At the Canadian city, the Colombian athletes will certainly surpass their record of 24 medals in Guadalajara and, although they might be far from the number of medals they won four years ago (it was 84 and they now have 56), they have at least guaranteed a position among the first five countries, better than Mexico.

Decrease in several disciplines

Within this framework of higher rivalry, the results of several disciplines that have traditionally given Cuba several medals were below expectations in Toronto. Four years ago, for instance, wrestling (both Greek and free-style) contributed with 9 medals, and now it ranked fourth. Judo went down from 6 to 4, weightlifting 4 - 2, cycling won two medals in Guadalajara and none in Toronto. Unlike the outcome at the Mexican city, other disciplines did stand out on the podium, such as diving and rhythmic gymnastics.

Baseball was once again the biggest disappointment in terms of collective sports. Cuba had won 10 titles in a row, 1971 - 2007. In 2011 the country got the bronze and it ranked third in Toronto, after the defeat against the United States. In the game for the bronze, the team was about to lose with Puerto Rico. A spectacular upturn at the end of the ninth inning saved them from total debacle.

The causes of the decrease?

The results below forecasts in Toronto are an expression of the fall experienced by Cuban sports over the past five years. In some disciplines, the main figures have decided to continue their careers in other countries (with special emphasis in baseball and volleyball, both women’s and men’s). Cuba introduced a change in its legislation so as to allow the hiring of athletes in professional leagues, but national teams cannot count on those who decided to play in professional leagues, without the mediation of a Cuban Federation. Would the performance in Toronto have been different with those athletes in the delegation? Probably, but it’s just speculation. The facts speak by themselves: six days before the closing ceremony, Cuba is ranked fifth with 23 gold medals, right behind the United States, Canada, Brazil and Colombia.

Cuba’s definitive position in Toronto will depend on the performances of athletics and boxing delegations. In Guadalajara, these two disciplines collected 26 titles, so the country could leave Brazil and Mexico behind. Once again, the position on the medals table will directly linked to the performances of athletes in track and field and boxing. But, one thing is for sure: not even with 26 gold medals – a figure that is unlikely to be reached – Cuba would prevail over Canada in the fight for the second position.

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