XVIII Pan American Games, Cuba clears the road to Tokyo 2020 in Lima
BY MOISÉS PÉREZ MOK, PHOTOS: JOSÉ MERIÑO
If the XVIII Pan American Games Lima 2019 aroused anything in Cuba, it was the possibility of starting to clear the way for the coming encounter under the five Olympic rings, agreed for 11 months time in Tokyo.
Six Cubans already secured their quotas in the Peruvian capital for the next Olympiad: the shooters Laína Pérez, Jorge Grau and Jorge Álvarez, all gun specialists; as well as Eglys de la Cruz, in rifle. In addition to Leidy Laura Moya and Letter Ders, both in the modern pentathlon.
A list to which must be added another gunman, Leuris Pupo, who had already secured his ticket to the Japanese city in the Championship of the Americas, played last November in the Mexican city of Guanajuato, where he dominated the rapidfire test at the distance of 25 meters.
The sports shooting was precisely one of the sports in which Cuba managed to excel in the Pan American competition, contributing four of the 33 gold medals totalled by the delegation of the largest of the Antilles, this time composed of 420 competitors.
The remaining golden medals were won in boxing (8), athletics (5), wrestling (5), judo (5), canoeing (2), rowing (2), cycling (1) and fencing (1).
Such a performance, numerically lower than four years ago in the Canadian city of Toronto (36 gold medals), caused the island to drop a level in the general country classification to finish in fifth place, equally outstanding.
Take into consideration that Cuba competed in only 267 of the 419 events convened (including a good few outside the Olympic program) and in a Games listed as the most competitive in a history that began to write itself in Buenos Aires 1951, for two fundamental reasons.
The first, because Lima 2019 was attended by over more 100 Olympic medalists - which speaks for itself of the high level of the competition - and the second because of the fact that 21 of the scheduled sports granted places for Tokyo, a figure far superior to that of Toronto 2015, where nine disciplines were Olympic qualifiers.
One hundred percent Cubans For Cuba, the inability to match or improve the performance of the 2015 Pan American Games was fundamentally due to the fact that four of the sports aiming for gold medals did not achieve their goal for various reasons: baseball, taekwondo, artistic gymnastics and the Basque ball.
After treasuring 12 gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals in continental events, baseball saw its worst performance ever in Lima, suffering three losses in the same number of starts.
In the debut they succumbed against Colombia 1-6; then Canada won by 8-6, eliminating any possibility of access to the podium, and in the battle for fifth and sixth places the Dominican Republic came back with two outs from an adverse score of eight races to finally prevail by 10-9.
For its part, taekwondo, where three titles were thought possible, went blank, as did the gymnasts and baseball players.
Regarding the performance in Lima, the president of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (Inder), Osvaldo Vento, stress’s that Cuba, without practices such as the integration of foreign athletes and trainers, competed with a totally indigenous delegation, the result of a sports system available to everyone, despite the limitations imposed by the increased aggression of the US Government.
For that reason, he remarked, “nothing can tarnish the reasons that help us be proud of the passion with which this delegation worked to honor Cuba’s name and the dignified people it represents.”
Lima’s legacy In addition to breaking 68 new records, the XVIII Pan American Games Lima 2019 marked a clear awakening of the sporting giants located south of the Rio Grande. Just seeing the final medal count by country is warning enough of the drastic fall of Canada, home of the previous games held in 2015, and the brash rise of nations such as Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.
The Canadians, who in Toronto reaped 78 gold, 70 silver and 71 bronze medals to finish second only to the United States (103- 82-80), came home this time with 35 titles, 64 silver metals and 53 bronze.
Brazil, on the other hand, rose from third (42-39-60) to place itself now as sub-leader of the medal table in Lima (55-47-71).
Mexico was a worthy occupant of third place (37-36-63), while Argentina improved only one place - from seventh to sixth - but more than doubled the number of titles achieved: 15 in Toronto and 32 in Lima.