With her elasticity, coordination and power, the triple jumper Caterine Ibargüen is the most important athlete in the history of Colombian sports. Nobody doubts it after his gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, which surpassed the silver he had already obtained in London. The Antioqueña (Apartadó, 37 years old) planned to retire in 2020, but the pandemic postponed her plans until after Tokyo. Now, although her days as the indestructable queen of the triple jump seem exhausted, she wants a farewell at the height of her legend. If it weren’t for a medal, “I’d be watching the games on television,” he said in a statement of intent.
She is one of the most beloved athletes in her country. Winner of successive Diamond Leagues, Ibargüen was chosen as the best athlete of 2018 by the International Athletics Federation (IAAF), only the second Latin American to achieve that distinction, and won the bronze in the 2019 World Athletics World Cup. These are the fourth Olympic Games in the outstanding service record of the jumper with the contagious smile – who has also competed in high and long jump during her career. Although her results this year have been modest, having been injured with plantar fasciitis, she is still determined to win. In Tokyo he will again face the Venezuelan Yulimar Rojas, in the reissue of an epic rivalry between neighboring countries.
Ibargüen is the standard bearer of a delegation that has another current champion, Mariana Pajón (Medellín, 29 years old), the queen of BMX. Or two-time champion, to be more precise. After claiming gold in both London and Rio de Janeiro, the bike rider is aiming for her third consecutive medal. Despite the fact that the ‘atomic ant’ broke the ligaments in its knee in 2018, it achieved the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima 2019, and in May it won the BMX World Cup, arriving in Japan as the number one in the ranks of the International Cycling Union, which has contested side by side with the Dutch Laura Smulders.
The two women from Antioquia are the big stars of a Colombian representation of 71 athletes (48 men and 23 women) who will participate in 16 sports, much less numerous than that of Rio de Janeiro (147) or even that of London (104). This decrease is explained to some extent due to the fact that Colombia did not qualify in team sports, as it had done in Brazil. After having achieved three golds – the third thanks to the weightlifter Óscar Figueroa – and a total of eight medals five years ago, the Colombian Olympic Committee (COC) aims to approach a dozen medals in Japan.
In addition to the veterans Ibargüen and Pajón, the best Colombian hopes to climb the drawers are placed in a young athlete, Anthony Zambrano (Maicao, 23 years old), who took silver in the 400 meters of the Doha 2019 World Cup – with South American brand included – and gold in the Pan American Games that year. The Guajiro sprinter will also compete with the 4 x 400 relay team together with Alejandro Perlaza, Diego Palomeque and Alexander Solis. In the COC they also make accounts with the contribution of the marcher Éider Arévalo (Bogotá, 28 years old), world champion in the 20 kilometers in 2017.
Other old acquaintances of the Colombian delegation will also return to Tokyo with the spirit of alchemists. The boxers Yuberjen Martínez and Ingrit Valencia seek to improve the silver and bronze medals they obtained in Rio to turn them into the elusive Olympic gold. And in weightlifting, one of the sports that has historically given Colombia the most success, after closing an investigation of positives for doping the country was able to bring three weightlifters to Tokyo: Mercedes Pérez, Santiago Rodallegas and Luis Javier Mosquera, bronze in the Brazilian jousts.
In cycling, considered the national sport, the road team will have a renowned team with figures such as Rigoberto Urán –silver medalist in London–, Nairo Quintana, Sergio Higuita and Esteban Cháves. However, there will be no Egan Bernal, the current Giro d’Italia champion preparing for the Tour of Spain, nor will Daniel Felipe Martínez, his teammate at Ineos, who was unable to travel at the last minute due to a persistent positive result for coronavirus.
Also outstanding in the delegation are veteran tennis players Robert Farah and Juan Sebastián Cabal, the pair of doubles specialists who were champions of Wimbledon and the United States Open in 2019, when they reached the top of the ATP ranks. The last quota of the Olympic team was taken by another young and promising tennis player, María Camila Osorio (Cúcuta, 19 years old), who also two years ago was champion of the Open American in the junior category and has just sneaked into the top 80 rackets in the ranking feminine.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.