Backed by having the greatest sports potential in Latin America, Cuba eyes with hope the 2012 Olympic Games in London, with the goal of improving what it reached four years ago.
The Cuban presence at summer events is almost as old as the Games themselves. In Paris in 1900, Cuban fencer Ramón Fonst reached the top of the podium, one of the few who were able to shine in sports before the triumph of the Revolution in 1959.
This small Caribbean island had to wait more than 60 years to return to the place of honour in the most exalted competition of muscle flexing, as it wasn't until the 1972 Games in Munich that Cuba returned to have a champion. And it was three at one shot, with boxers Orlandito Martínez, Emilio Correa and Teófilo Stevenson.
Since then, Cuban athletes have written notable pages in Olympic history, such as the double coronation of runner Alberto Juantorena in Montreal (1976), or the three gold medals obtained by boxers Stevenson and Félix Savón, and the women's volleyball team.
At the global level, the greatest clarions were given in Moscow (1980), with a historic fourth place in overall medals, and Barcelona (1992) with a fifth place for participation in the sports competitions fought in this beautiful Catalan city among all member countries of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in contrast to the games in the capital of the then Soviet Union.
Reality for London - 2012
The year 2011 closed for Cuba with 57 athletes qualifying for the Olympic Games in London – 2012, a figure that has almost doubled in recent months before the summer event charged with closing this competitive four-year period.
The different competitions that offered tickets to the London games, including the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, put a Cuban presence in ten sports, especially in athletics, with 27 places and still in condition to add some more.
Fighting (12), judo (10), boxing (8), canoeing (6), rowing (5), shooting and weightlifting (4), taekwondo and cycling (3), diving (2) and swimming, archery and table tennis (1) are figures in line with its real potential.
Perhaps boxing trailed as it wasn't able to round out the figure at 10 possibilities, because only one could join in on the continental qualifying rounds held in April in Río de Janeiro, Brazil. But quality and the good form of those selected has prevailed.
Other sports that have still not closed their classifications and with options are badminton, volleyball, modern pentathlon and athletics itself, which grants some time for places which can be obtained up to the last moment.
Figures to Follow
There are several figures with possibilities to climb to the top of the podium in the London games, but the most followed are precisely the winners in Beijing (2008): world record holder in the 110 metre hurdles, Dayron Robles, and multi-champion of Greco-Roman wrestling, Mijaín López.
Robles has been unstable since his coronation in China, but his quality continues to demand respect in the world and he only looks at the option of dethroning Chinese Liu Xiang. Meanwhile, López has been unbeatable in the past eight years, but in the last World Cup he lost in the finals of the 120 kg contest against Turkish wrestler Riza Kayaalp. Many believe that this could only happen in Istanbul, and that London will put things in their place. Time will tell.
In the Olympic Games themselves, the best of the Antilles has several choices for medals. These include Lázaro Borges, silver medalist at 2011 world championship in pole vault, Yargelis Savigne, one of the greatest triple jumpers in the world today, and Yarelis Barrios and Yipsy Moreno, silver in discus and hammer respectively, in Beijing.
Not to be left out is boxing, dubbed the flagship of Cuban sports. Headed by two world champions, Lázaro Álvarez (51 kg) and Julio César La Cruz (81 kg), they must navigate with a lot of luck in the UK. In short, there's a lot of cloth for cutting, but something that Cubans seem to expect almost hands down is that their performance in London will surpass the 28th place reached in the Games in Beijing, when titles were won only by Robles and López.