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Monday, April 23, 2018

Cuba’s major challenge in Barranquilla

Por Jack Leyva

Cuba has been at the top in each one of its last ten participations in the Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC or CACGs), which are a multi-sport regional championship event, held quadrennial (once every four years), typically in the middle (even) year between Summer Olympics. Since Panama 1970 no other nation has been able to surpass the Caribbean island, except for the editions of San Salvador 2002 and Mayagüez 2010, to which Cuba did not attend. It is not farfetched then to think of Cuba as the favorite nation to lead at the impending 23rd Central American and Caribbean Games that will be held in Barranquilla, Colombia next July.

The Cubans have assured the presence of almost 500 athletes when there is still a couple of months missing before the classification process is closed. The number increased with the spots won by Boxing, Taekwondo and Wrestling (Greco-Roman and Freestyle), three sports that are very strong in Cuba, as well all the other Combat sports. Taekwondo, for instance, got spots for its complete teams, and so did Judo and Wrestling. There are no doubts about these being the strongest disciplines among the Cuban sports, where Boxing won’t have his full team due to the light flyweight Johannys Argilagos’ abandonment of the delegation and the sick leave of Yosvany Veitia.

Cuba will not be able to recover the lost spots because Boxing has no further events in which they could classify, so this sport won’t be able to equal its performance in Veracruz 2014, in which the Cuban boxers got nine gold medals. Despite this handicap, the country is aspiring to keep the first place, a challenge that could only be achieved with an impeccable performance of Athletics, Nautical sports (Rowing and Canoeing), Shooting, Artistic gymnastics and collective sports because in general the country will not participate in 93 of the 470 events that will take place in Barranquilla.

In the case of the collective sports, Cuba will have 16 options to get medals, divided in four for Indoor volleyball and Beach volleyball for the both sexes, three in Basketball (masculine, feminine and 3x3), one for Baseball and two for Handball, Field hockey, Water polo and Softball. Baseball, a great passion on the island will face great resistance while masculine Basketball has not won a single medal since Ponce 1993. Water polo has been without medals for a decade now and Softball and Volleyball have not won since Maracaibo 1998 and they will be facing extremely exigent rivals. To make things worse, Cuba is not strong in sports that give a substantial amount of medals like Swimming, Roller sports, Diving, Synchronized swimming or Fencing, which should be dominated by the Mexicans, Colombians and Venezuelans, with far more participants than Cuba thus being direct rivals in the general competition.