HAVANA._ Of the 480 or so Cuban athletes who will compete in next July’s Pan American Games in Toronto, none would appear to be better prepared to truly leave his mark on the Canadian city than wrestler Mijaín López.
Backed by five world (2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2014) and two Olympic (Beijing-2008 and London-2012) titles and his more recent crowning as king of the 22nd Central American and Caribbean Games, this corpulent gladiator is now challenged to conquest his fourth continental gold medal.
López, who will celebrate his 30th birthday on next August 20, would not appear to have any rivals among the regions super-heavy weight Greco-Roman wrestlers.
Having already seen off all comers in his Santo Domingo-2003, Rio de Janeiro-2007 and Guardaljara-2011 bouts, he seems destined to extend his reign to the northern lands of Canada.
If the forecasts are correct, this natural fighter from Cuba’s westernmost province of Pinar del Rio will equal the feats of two other Cuban gladiators, Juan Luis Marén and Héctor Milián.
Marén won four Pan American gold medals in the 63kg division between 1991 and 2003 while Milián, also from Pinar del Rio, triumphed three times (1987, 1991 and 1995) in the heavyweight division and once (1999) in the 130+kg division.
Shooter Eglys Cruz also has the possibility of bringing home a fourth continental title and in her case the competition may be less tough given the level of this sport in the region.
The Olympic bronze medalist has taken top of the podium twice for the 10m air rifle -- in Santo Domingo-2003 and Rio-2007. She also showed her class in the Dominican Republic in the 50m three position event.
At last year’s 11th Americas Cup in Guadalajara, Eglys also became the first Cuban shooter to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
TRACK AND FIELD TO TELL ANOTHER TALE
Two Cuban athletes who previously sampled the sweet taste of four Pan American track and field gold are the unforgettable Ana Fidelia Quirot and Adriana Muñoz.
Quirot took the 400 and 800 meter titles in Indianapolis-1987 and Havana-1991 and Muñoz dominated in the two lap and 1,500m races in Santo Domingo-2003 and Guadalajara-2011.
Such laurels are beyond the grasp of the current legion of Cuban athletes, because a best case scenario is that some of them might attain a third title in their respective competitions.
The current javelin record holder (87.20m) Guillermo Martinez has won the last two continental titles as Misleydis González in shot-put and Yarelis Barrios – who has also thrown a new regional best for discus of 66.40m.
Cuba also has the possibility of triple championship wins in other sports such as judo and weightlifting.
On the judo mats, Yanet Bermoy could clinch a third Pan American title, having already taken the 48kg division gold in Rio-2007 and the 52kg in Guadalajara-2011.
Middle weightlifters Iván Cambar and favorite Sergio Alvarez have also done something similar, the latter holding the overall 270kg record.
Either way, every one of these possible achievements fade somewhat when compared to the glorious history written by Cuban Erick León, who, as the continent´s premier gymnast, not only took four consecutive titles between 1991 and 2003 but who in the course of his prolific career won a total of 18 gold, 3 silver and one bronze medals at Pan American games.Share on FB Share on TT