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Experiencing the Olympic Dream

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Colombia's Mariana Pajón won Pan American Games gold in the women's BMX. Photo: Pan American Games in Lima

By Dr. Sandra Geringer |

I have two very exciting trips planned for 2020. I will be visiting my husband’s (Javier) homeland of Colombia and I will be co-facilitating a trip to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. As much as I am born and bred in the US of A, I have taken great interest in learning more about the Colombianos and especially their sport culture. Javier is an avid volleyball player. He started competing when he was 14 years old. He welcomed the discipline in his life, and the passion he has for volleyball shaped his confidence and he still maintains a healthy lifestyle. He made his college team, and even played for the Colombian National Team. He now enjoys playing beach volleyball and has become a certified beach and indoor volleyball official. He has taught me as much about volleyball as I have taught him about American Football. Unfortunately, I have unintentionally influenced him to be a Cleveland Browns fan… there is always next year!

As I look forward to my travels this coming year, I thought it would be fun to become a bit more familiar with Colombian athletes winning their way to the 2020 Olympics. There were some outstanding performances throughout 2019. Here are the top six athletes (with Javier’s approval) that have had a stellar year and to keep an eye on in the upcoming Olympic Games:

5) Anthony Zambrano – sprinter – Zambrano is best known as being ranked fifth in the world for the 400m sprint. He earned a silver medal in the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar and set a national record at 44.15s. He also won two gold medals in the 2019 Pan American Games, one in the individual 400m and one as the anchor for the 4x400m relay. Fans will be hoping to see Zambrano’s proud smile on the photo finish.

4) Robert Farah and Sebastian Cabal – tennis – The Colombian doubles duo captured the two most prestigious doubles championships this year – Wimbledon and the US Open. They also clinched the year-end No. 1 world ranking in men’s doubles. They are the first South American team to achieve this feat since 1986. In an interview with Farah, he mentioned that tennis has become quite popular in Colombia these days. He also stated that he and Cabal are showing the next generation that it is possible to fight and to win these big tournaments. This pair is truly a smashing hit with their followers!

3) Mariana Pajón– BMX – Pajón is known as the Queen of BMX. She is the only Colombian to be a two-time Olympic gold medalist. She won her first national title at the age of 5, and her first world title at age 9. She has won 14 world championships, 2 national championships in the US, 9 Latin American Championships, and 10 Pan American Championships. She is looking to lap Colombia’s colors back to the top of the podium for the third time in the 2020 Olympics.

2) Egan Bernal – cyclist – Bernal won the 2019 Tour de France, becoming the first Latin American winner of the race. It is questionable at this time if Bernal will compete in the road racing event in the 2020 Olympic Games. Although, it is favorable for him to compete because the course has many hills which he excels at and it could be another historical achievement for the young Colombian as well as his country. But, he and Team Ineos are deciding what road to follow.  

1) Caterine Ibargüen – high jump, long jump, triple jump – Ibargüen is best known for her success at the triple jump. She won a silver medal in the 2012 Olympic Games, however she has pretty much been in the top spot ever since. She won the gold medal in the 2016 Olympic Games. She was named the 2018 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Female Athlete of the Year Award. She had to withdraw from the 2019 Pan American Games due to an injury. However, she is still the favorite to win the gold medal in the 2020 Olympic Games. Her homeland will be jumping for joy for her when she succeeds.

I do have to give an honorable mention to James Rodríguez for being one of the most popular (and many may say good looking (this side note is unapproved by Javier)) athletes for Colombia. He plays middle-forward for the national futbol (soccer) team. Associations affiliated with Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) can send teams to participate in the Olympic Games. However, men’s teams are restricted to players under the age of 23 years with a maximum of three players that can be over that age. Colombia will be sending a team, but it is yet to be determined if Rodríguez will be one of the overaged players.

Like Colombia, every country has their stars and expects them to compete at their peak performance on the world stage. The Olympic Games are the ultimate show for pride in an athlete’s country and just having the opportunity to be a part of such a tradition can be enough of an honor for someone who has given his or her life towards being a champion. And, for me, to be able to not only immerse myself in the Colombian culture but to also feel the Olympic spirit is definitely fulfilling a longtime desire. As much as 2019 was a stellar year – even for me, I am thrilled about what’s to come in 2020 by experiencing the Olympic dream!

The following links contributed to this article:

https://www.eltiempo.com/deportes/ciclo-olimpico/perfil-de-anthony-jose-zambrano-oro-en-los-juegos-panamericanos-2019-398714

https://www.tennis.com/pro-game/2019/10/juan-sebastian-cabal-and-robert-farrah-atp-doubles-columbia/85596/

https://readysteady.tokyo2020.org/en/news/detail/colombia-s-double-olympic-medallist-mariana-pajon-dreams-of-her-third-win-in-tok/

https://www.rcnradio.com/deportes/por-que-egan-bernal-pondria-en-riesgo-su-presencia-en-los-olimpicos-si-va-al-giro

https://www.globalsportscommunication.nl/athletes/most-successful-athletes/EN11866-Caterine-Ibarg%C3%BCen.aspx

Dr. Sandra Geringer is the Director of Recreation Management and Sports Studies at the United States Sports Academy.

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