Despite all the difficulties of preparing for and participating in sport during the pandemic, and after the competition was delayed a year, this August Cuban athletes made their country proud, broke a few records and took home a bunch of medals in both the Olympics and Paralympics.
In the Olympics Cubans dominated the boxing. Cuban boxer Roniel Iglesias beat Pat McCormack 5-0 to win a gold medal in the welterweight boxing final. Also Lázaro Álvarez won a bronze medal in the featherweight boxing category. Cuba’s Arlen Lopez won the gold medal in light heavyweight boxing after beating GB’s Ben Whittaker.
Cuban boxer Julio César La Cruz outclassed Russian world heavyweight champion Muslim Gadzhimagomedov to win his second Olympic title. La Cruz is also a four-time amateur world champion, having won gold medals at the 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017 World Championships.
Andy Cruz, the two-time light welterweight World Champion, nicknamed ‘the matador’, a brilliant dancer in the ring, took the gold in lightweight mens boxing in the final against US Keyshawn Davis.
They were also very successful in wrestling: 38-year-old Mijaín López, known as the ‘Gigante de Herredura’ (giant of Herredura, his home town in Pinar del Rio), not only won a gold medal for Cuba but also made history by becoming the only wrestler to win four Olympic titles, after defeating the Georgian Lakobi Kajaia 5-0 in the final of 130 kg mens wrestling. Luis Orta also won gold medal and Reineris Salas won bronze in freestyle wrestling.
Serguey Torres and Fernando Dayán Jorge, achieved a gold medal in the 1,000m 2-seater canoe. They timed 3: 24.995 minutes, an Olympic record.
Silver medal winners also included Leuris Pupo who won silver in mens shooting, Juan Miguel Echevarria for mens long jump, Idalys Ortiz for womens Judo.
Bronze medal winners included Rafael Alba Castillo in mens Taekwondo, Yaime Perez won bronze medal in discus, Maykel Massó for long jump.
The team finished 14th in the medals table with a total of 15 medals: 7 gold, 3 silver and 5 bronze. Cuba finished 2nd for Latin American and Caribbean countries, only just below Brazil.
The Cuban delegation was their smallest (and first with fewer than 100 athletes) since 1964, but they still improved on their record at Rio in 2016.
Leinier Savón Pineda, a Cuban visually impaired sprinter and long jumper from Guantanamo, won a silver medal in the men’s long jump with a jump of 7.16 metres, a Pan American record.
Against all expectations, Cuban long jumper Robiel Yankiel del Sol took the gold with a jump of 7.46 metres, a paralympics record.
Leonardo Díaz, Cuban discus thrower made his best shot of the season and won a bronze medal.
Visually impaired sprinter Omara Durand, considered the face of Cuban Paralympic athletics after winning 3 gold medals at Rio 2016 and two at London 2012, won 4 golds this time.
Her first gold was in the 400 metres. In the 100 metres, accompanied by her guide Yuniol Kindelán, Durand clocked in at 00:00:11.49, her personal record for the Games, and won a gold medal. She won her 3rd gold and reinforced her reign as “queen of sprint” in Tokyo, winning the 200 metres with a World Record (23.02 seconds), accompanied by guide Yuniol Kindelán again.
Cuba achieved four gold, one silver and one bronze, 35th in the table, despite only presenting a delegation of 16 athletes.