Ten Golden Moments for Latin America at Rio 2016
1. The Sweet Redemption of Brazil's Football Gold
It would be impossible to begin a Rio 2016 highlights, without the highlight of all highlights for the hosting nation, which was the success of the men’s football team, who clinched gold for the first time in the nation’s history. To make the success even sweeter, the victory came against Germany, who only two years before humiliated Brazil with a 7-1 defeat in the Estádio Mineirão to eliminate them from the World Cup. In a fairy-tale finish, Neymar – the star of Brazilian football – scored the winning penalty kick in a shootout, after the tie had finished 1-1 after extra time.
2. Puerto Rico's FIrst Ever Olympic Medal
Puerto Rico’s only gold of the games was won by Monica Puig in the women’s tennis. Ranked 34th in the world going into the games, Puig exceeded all expectations, battling her way into the final match before defeating Germany’s Angelique Kerber by two sets to one in the final. And the is how the Puerto Ricans celebrated...
3. The Miraculous Comeback of Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro
One of fthe most emotional moments of the Olympics was tennis giant Juan Martin del Potro's return from a two year injury, to knock out both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal on his way to the Olympic final. He couldn't quite produce the miracle of defeating a supremely match-fit Andy Murray to claim Gold, but a Silver medal for a player whose ranking had fallen to 141 in the world due to the two year absence was a miracle in itself. Just seeing this ultimate survivor reach the final got Argentine fans so emotional, they began singing 'Delpo' from the crowd, which provoked the giant from Tandíl to throw himself into them in total entrega. Sorry that word has no translation.
4. Emerging Colombian Talent
Mariana Pajón became the first Colombian athlete to win two gold medals as she cycled to victory in the Women’s BMX final to defend her Olympic title following victory in London 2012. Her success followed on from that of Caterine Ibargüen who won triple jump gold with her best ever score of 15.17m. Colombia’s first gold of the Games was won by Oscar Figueroa, who was victorious in the Men's 62kg weightlifting contest on day three.
5. Cuba Always Reminding us of its Quality
Cuba has a long history of boxing success at the Olympic Games, and they didn’t disappoint in Rio. On day 13 of the Games, Julio Cesar De La Cruz clinched gold in the 81kg men's light heavyweight, and two days later Arlen Lopez and Robeisy Ramirez claimed gold for their nation in the 75kg men's middleweight and 56kg men's bantamweight respectively. The latter defeated USA's Shakur Stevenson in a close encounter. Cuba won two other gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling, with Ismael Borrero Molina winning his first ever gold, and Mijain López winning his third secessive gold medal in the 130kg bout.
6. The Argentine Sailor defying Age and Sickness to Seize the Prize of his Life
In one of the top success stories of the 2016 Games, Argentine sailors Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli won gold in the Nacra 17 mixed category. Lange was not only the oldest sailor to compete in Rio at the age of 54, but also lost part of his lung to cancer only a year before the competition.
7. Brazil's Best Olympics Ever
With the population of Brazil in a celebratory mood following the success of the men’s football team, the Brazilian men’s volleyball team also won gold with a thrashing of Italy in the final with a three-set sweep victory. The victory came only two days after Brazil’s men’s team beat the same opponents in the Beach Volleyball final in a much closer affair. Brazil came from behind in both sets to win the match 21-19 21-17.
Brazil’s first gold of the games was won by Rafaela Silva, who won the 57kg judo division to silence her critics following disappointment in London four years prior. Martine Grael and Robson Conceição also won gold for their nation in sailing and boxing categories respectively, while Thiago Braz da Silva set an Olympic record of 6.03m to win gold in the men's pole vault. All these achievements made Brazil's best Olympics ever. And ranked 13th in the medals table it was the best performing Latin American nation.
8. The Most Unexpected: Argentina's Men's Hockey Gold
The Argentine wome's hockey team has always been the stars of the Olympics, winning four consecutive medals (two silver, two bronze) since 2000, when they became the first women's team in any sport to win an Olympic medal for their country. Nobody expected the men to do the same. In a most unexpected victory, the Argentine men's hockey team won their Olympic medal (and it was GOLD) as they triumphed over Belgium by four goals to two in the final.
9. Overcoming the Odds - Mexico's Boxing Bronze
The controversy over Mexico's poor Olympic prospects, being of continents largest economies, with accusations of the government's lack of investment in its people, only served to highlight the achievments of those that did make it, and the hardships they overcame. One of these was Mexican boxer Misael Rodriguez, who a year before winning Olympic Bronze, allegedly was forced to take to the streets of Mexico City, hopping on buses at traffic lights to raise money to compete in international boxing tournaments. The Mexican government has been criticised for mismanaging an already small budget to support athletes and for appointing a controversial former state prosecutor, Alfredo Castillo, to lead the country’s sports commission— a job usually reserved for a high-profile athlete. Rodriguez became a symbol for overcoming the odds in Latin America.
10. Making History Two Times at Once
Paula Pareto was the first ever Argentine woman to win an Olympic gold, by winning the country's first ever Olympic Judo gold, which was to boot the first Judo gold on day two of the competition. It's no surprise that she was then chosen to be the flag bearer for her country at the closing ceremony of the Games.