Only three Latin American countries have won at least one medal in Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games and the alarm has already been triggered for Mexico’s and Cuba’s delegations, but the problem is actually worst because several of region’s hopes, in individual and team competitions, were far below expectations.
The letdown list is headed by the Mexican soccer team, since it was the champion in London 2012 and it has now been eliminated in the first stage of the tournament.
“You can’t be satisfied. The team did things right, but this is about scoring goals and that’s quite complicated if you’re not effective. They had a chance and took it,” Mexican coach Raul Gutierrez said after the defeat against South Korea.
The “Tri” was one of the Mexican delegation’s strongest candidates, but the team couldn’t score in the key moments and it only totaled four points (one win, one tie and a defeat). The low performance was also related to the injuries suffered by forward Oribe Peralta and winger Rodolfo Pizarro.
Argentina’s men’s soccer team was another Latin American disappointment because it didn’t make it through the group stage, just like Mexico. This “Olympic failure”, as described by specialized press, hadn’t been witnessed since Tokyo 1964, because the Argentinean team had always reached the second round.
Many people believed that the South American players were among the favorites to win the event, because of their Olympic record (two titles in a row, 2004 – 2008), but the truth is that this team was wrong since the very first kick and the end was worst. The serious discrepancies within the National Association, the refusal by European teams, like Juventus and Milan’s Inter, to give -23 soccer players, such as Dybala and Icardi, and the reluctance by Boca Juniors and River Plate to lend some players, made Gerardo “Tata” Martino run out of patience and he unexpectedly resigned his coaching position.
Without a clear leadership, although having talent in the lineup, Argentina lost two games in Rio, against Portugal and Honduras, so they had an early return.
Brazil’s soccer team was about to fall into the letdown list, since after two 0-0 ties, the locals overwhelmed Denmark, 4-0, thus guaranteeing a ticket to quarterfinals. However, this win couldn’t clean the terrible image of a team that, led by Neymar, is seeking the only title missing on its shelves.
The group of collective disappointments also includes the Brazilian women’s basketball team and Cuba’s men’s volleyball team. The locals have lost their three games and they have been eliminated; while the Caribbean lineup was made up of young players, because the main stars are still in prison in Finland, where they are facing trial due to the allegedly sexual aggression against a woman.
Mexico was trusting in soccer and dive, but both sports failed. On the 10-meter synchronized platform, German Sanchez and Ivan Garcia couldn’t repeat the silver they won in London, and the same happened with Paola Espinosa and Alejandra Orozco, who finished in sixth in the same competition.
Venezuela also regretted the early elimination of one of its main athletes: fencer Ruben Limardo, champion in London. The 31-year-old Venezuelan athlete was beat by Egyptian Ayman Fayez, 15 – 5, and he apologized to the country. “This is not the end for Ruben Limardo, I’ll keep training for the next edition of the Olympic Games,” he said, although he’s unlikely to participate in the 2020 edition of the event due to his age.
Among the causes of his defeat, the fencer pointed out that he had recently recovered from a spine injury and he didn’t have enough training time.
Cuba hasn’t had good performances either. A week after the teeing off of the Games, the country was expected to have at least one medal, but the two judokas that fought for the bronze (Dayaris Mestre and Yalennis Castillo) were defeated and, to make things even worst, two favorite athletes, gymnast Manrique Larduet and triple jumper Pedro Pablo Pichardo, have suffered from injuries so they’ll be far from the podium.
Could Latin America revert this first negative week in Rio Olympic Games? Cuba, especially with boxing medals, will be on the medal board and face Brazil for the leadership in the region; while Mexico is going to do its best to win at least one medal.