HAVANA._ Holding on to their traditional second place in the Pan American Games is the greatest challenge facing Cuba in the 17th edition of the continental competitions, running in Toronto from July 10 to 26.

Retaining this lofty position, held since the Games were hosted by Cali, Colombia, in 1971, will warrant a special effort and put the preparation and tenacity of the Cuban athletes to the test.

Holding on to their traditional second place in the Pan American Games is the greatest challenge facing Cuba in the 17th edition of the continental competitions, running in Toronto from July 10 to 26.Four years after the Guadalajara games, the continental sporting scenario and the circumstances that Cuba will face this time around are by no means the same.

In addition to the sporting force consistently demonstrated by the United States since the second edition of the games, hosted by Mexico City in 1955, one can say that -- aside from their team’s competitive qualities - Canada‘s position as host nation ensures that their audience will be most anxious to see their national flag hoisted second to that of their neighbor to the South and outright leader at the Games.

It must also be taken into account that of 385 trials incorporated into the competitive program, Cuba will be absent from 133, participating in only 232, a fact that considerably diminishes the total number of potential medals.

Cuban strategists must also reckon with Brazil, who has put together an impressive sporting force, the immense majority of whom will compete in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games next year.

This is why Toronto is vital for the South American Giant who, with their best ever tally of 52 gold, 40 silver, and 65 bronze medals, failed to beat Cuba, which claimed 59-35-41, when hosting the Games in 2007.

The last three Games have borne witness to a fierce dispute between the second and fifth place, involving Cuba, Canada, Brazil, and Mexico, while Colombia, Argentina, and Venezuela have registered marked increases in their medal counts in various sports.

Mexico‘s place among the Toronto vanguard should not be forgotten, having sent out a strong signal in the last Central American and Caribbean Games (Veracruz-2014), where they had Cuba up against the wall until the very end of the joust.

Cuban experts consider that a tally of around 55 gold medals should be sufficient to beat Brazil in the quest for the second place.

Such estimates are based on the performances of leading figures in disciplines such as boxing, judo, wrestling, taekwondo, and weightlifting, the Cuban “super-heavyweights“ in multiple events, that should reap the needed gold harvest.

Four years ago in Guadalajara-2011, these five sports delivered 29 titles, half of the total that ensured Cuba‘s second place behind the U.S. champions with a total of 92. Athletics warrants a special mention having contributed an amazing 18 gold medals.

With the exception of Havana-1991, where they made the most of their advantage and took the coveted number 1 spot from the U.S., Cuba has held second position on the continental medal table since the Cali-1971 Games.

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