HAVANA._ Having regained the top position in the recent Central American and Caribbean Games, Cuban athletes are now gearing up to overcome another major challenge: to rank second in the Pan-American games to be hosted by the Canadian city of Toronto next July.

Having regained the top position in the recent Central American and Caribbean Games, Cuban athletes are now gearing up to overcome another major challenge: to rank second in the Pan-American games to be hosted by the Canadian city of Toronto next July.Cuba´s performance at the regional games organized by the Mexican city of Veracruz last November not only reaffirmed the top quality of Cuban sports but also enabled the island to see how hard it must work in order to score good results in the games scheduled for Toronto July 10-26.

The traditional runner-up in the quadrennial continental games, Cuba´s sports delegation will land in Toronto with only one goal in mind: to retain that lustrous position; second to the United States.

However, Cuban coaches, specialists, trainers, and athletes are aware that their goal will not be easily accomplished.

The progress made by Central American and Caribbean nations such as Jamaica, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela, Brazil´s stable results and the challenging performance to be set y host Canada, which has historically ranked third on the medal table, aresome of the obstacles Cuba will have to overcome. Needless to say therefore that the Toronto games will encompass a highly competitive scenario where on-court and on-field rivalries will be ever present.

COMPETITION WILL HAVE THE LAST WORD

Cuba´s goal at the forthcoming Pan Am games will very much rely on the performance of world and Olympic champions Idalys Ortiz (judo) and Mijaín López (wrestling), their nation´s best sports persons in 2014, shooter Leuris Pupo, and boxer Roniel Iglesias, among other elite athletes.

The U.S., which was runner up to Cuba on the medal table only in the 1991-Havana games, will once again show its traditional power in Toronto to reaffirm its top position in continental sports.

As Canada is organizing the games and its athletes will have the additional input of a home crowd cheering them on, the host country is expected to put up a strong fight for second position on the medal table. There´s no doubt Canada will field its best ever delegation at the games.

However, the host nation will also feel pressure from an ever-improving Brazil, which is sure to be a strong rival and is likely to take some of the titles in the 36 sports included in the games´ program.

Canada will host the games for the third time. The city of Winnipeg, in Manitoba province, organized these continental competitions in 1967 and in 1999.

According to the organizing committee, the next continental games will bring together some 7,000 athletes from the Pan American Sports Organization´s 41 member-nations.

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