In the centenarian history of the modern-age Olympic Games, Latin American countries have been present in 27 editions held to date. Cuba has stood out by far, with 208 medals, followed by Brazil (108), Argentina (70), Mexico (62) and Colombia (19).
Cuba first attended an edition of the Olympic Games in Paris, 1900, although the highest amount of medals was collected after 1972. However, the athlete with the highest number of medals was a star in that initial stage: fencer Ramon Fonst, who was on the podium five times and finished with four titles and a silver medal, between the Paris Games and the edition held in San Luis, in 1904.
Cuba’s best position (4th) was achieved in Moscow Olympic Games, in 1980; but, if we take into account that 35 countries, led by the United States, boycotted that edition, the fifth position reached by the Cuban delegation in Barcelona, 1992, seems to be the most important result.
At Condal City, Cuba obtained the highest number of medals in its Olympic history (31) and titles (14). Boxing was the most outstanding sport, since out of the 72 Cuban titles, more than half (34) belongs to the boxers; while athletics has put 40 medals on the table (10 gold medals) and judo has given 35, with six titles.
Besides Fonst, other great Cuban athletes have shone in Olympic Games, such as boxers Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon, with three crowns each. The list of Olympic legends also includes runner Alberto Juantorena, the only athlete in the history to win both 400 and 800-meter dash in the same edition of the Games, and wrestlers Filiberto Azcuy and Mijain Lopez, with two titles. As for team sports, the women’s volleyball team was a three-time champion in consecutive editions (1992-2000), and baseball has conquered three golds and two silver medals.
Brazil has participated in 21 editions of the Olympic Games and the country made its debut in Amberes, 1920. All in all, the Brazilian athletes have won 108 medals (23 titles, 30 silver medals and 55 bronzes). In Rio, as locals, those numbers will go up for sure.
The best performance of a Brazilian delegation was recently witnessed in London, 2012, when it finished in the 22nd position, with 17 medals (3 titles, 5 silver medals and 9 bronzes). Judo has conquered most of the medals, 19, three of which are golden; while sailing has given 17 (6 gold medals) and athletics 14 (4 titles). Yachtsmen Torben Grael (2-1-2) and Robert Scheidt (2-2-1) obtained five Olympic medals and, as for team sports, thumbs up for the women’s volleyball team, champion in 2008 and 2012. Nobody understands the reason why Brazil hasn’t won an Olympic soccer title to date.
Argentina has attended 23 editions of the Olympic Games (the country was only absent in 1896, 1904, 1912 and 1980) and its athletes have achieved 70 medals (18 titles, 24 silver medals and 28 de bronzes). Unlike Cuba and Brazil, most of Argentinean medals were collected in the first half of the 20th century. Between 1956 and 2004, no athlete from that country has been on the highest step of the podium.
The best performance of Argentinean sports was eyed in London, 1948, when they won 7 medals, three titles among them (by marathon runner Delfo Cabrera and boxers Arturo Rodriguez and Pascual Perez). In Berlin, 1936, the country obtained seven medals too, but only two of them were golden.
Boxing has been the utmost sport for Argentinean athletes in Olympic Games, with 24 medals (7-7-10); while athletics has delivered 5 (2-3-0). As for team sports, soccer has undoubtedly stood out, with two titles in a row, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008; moreover, the basketball team got the crown at the Greek capital, after having defeated the so-called US “Dream Team” in semifinals. The athletes with the highest number of medals are yachtsman Carlos Espinola (0-2-2) and Luciana Aymar (0-2-2) in field hockey.
Mexico is ranked behind Cuba, Brazil and Argentina on the Olympic list of Latin American countries. The country sent its representatives to the Games held in Paris, back in 1900, they could only send a formal delegation 24 later. Ever since they have participated in all editions of the Olympic Games and Mexican athletes have obtained 62 medals (13 titles, 21 silver medals and 28 bronzes).
The best performance was delivered in the edition held in 1968, when Mexico City became the first Latin American city (and the only one until Rio) to host the Olympic Games. Before their public, the Mexican athletes climbed to the podium nine times (3 titles, 3 silver medals and 3 bronzes). Diving has been the most outstanding discipline for Mexico, with 13 medals, although only one is golden; while boxers have conquered 12 medals (2 are golden).
Diver Joaquin Capilla holds the highest number of Mexican medals, four, distributed in three editions of the Games: bronze in the platform in London 1948, silver in Helsinki 1952, gold in Melbourne 1956 and bronze in the diving board in that Australian city. Humberto Mariles Cortes has stood out as the only Mexican athlete with three medals in the same edition of the Games. In London 1948, in horseback riding, Cortes won the single jump and team jump and finished third in the Three-Day competition.
Colombia made its debut in Olympic Games in Los Angeles, 1932, but it was in Munich, 1972, where a Colombian athlete conquered the first medal. The country has won 19 medals: 2 titles, 6 silver medals and 11 bronzes.
The finest performance took place in London, 2012, where the country’s athletes won 8 medals (a golden one for Mariana Pajon, three silver medals and four bronzes).
As for the most outstanding sports, weight lifting and cycling have collected 4 medals each. Maria Isabel Urrutia, champion in the 75 kg division in Sidney, 2000, and Pajon, winner of the BMX at the British capital, have given Colombia its only titles in the Olympic history; although the athletes holding more medals are wrestler Jacqueline Renteria (bronze in Beijing, 2008, and London, 2012) and marksman Helmut Bellingrodt (silver in Munich, 1972, and in Los Angeles, 1984).