Key sporting moments in Colombia this 2019

By Freek Huigen December 31, 2019

What a sporting year it was for Colombia, with a historic Tour de France victory, grand slam titles, World Championships and other standout moments in Colombian sport. 

Colombian Sport

Egan’s Tour de France victory

Arguably the most exciting sporting victory of the year was Egan Bernal’s Tour de France win, becoming the first Colombian to claim the yellow jersey in the most prestigious cycling event of the year. Initially, the 22-year-old Bernal wasn’t even going to compete in the Tour de France. However, a strange turn of events in his Team Ineos meant he started the Tour as one of the favourites.

The Zipaquireño stayed in the shadows of the more experienced riders for the majority of the 21-stage event, but when the time came to be counted, he was where he needed to be, all the way at the front. After five podium finishes in Paris – Nairo Quintana 3 times, Rigoberto Urán and Fabio Parra – Bernal became the first Colombian to bring the yellow jersey home. 

Cabal and Farah’s Grand Slam success

Juan Sebastián Cabal and Robert Farah were already a team taken very seriously before this year, with a masters doubles title already in their pocket, but this year they set their names in stone, as they were the best double players on the Tour. In July, on the holy grass of Wimbledon, Cabal and Farah claimed their first ever Grand Slam title together, winning an epic five-set battle in the final and taking the number one position in the world rankings. 

It didn’t stop there though, as the Caleños went to the US Open as top seeds and favourites and then dominated on the hardcourt of Flushing Meadows, claiming a second grand slam title only two months after their first. 

Men’s and Women’s football, América de Cali champions

América de Cali won the league title in the second half of 2019, it was an important title as it marks the end of a dark era for la mechita. One of Colombia’s biggest teams had spent five years in the second division before returning to top-flight football in 2017.

Although América had a very inconsistent season, they managed to peak at the right time towards the end of the tournament, with Michael Rangel commanding up front and Duván Vergara creating danger from the wing.

It was a tough year for women’s football in Colombia. In February several scandals were revealed about power abuse and harassment in the sport. The professional league, two years after being founded, was truncated from nearly a full-year campaign into a league that was played over three months. 

Though there is still a long way to go for women’s football in Colombia, the final between América de Cali and Independiente Medellín was a showcase of spectacle in an incredible atmosphere that saw América win their first league title. It was the mix of experience and youth with 29-year-old captain Catalina Usme and 14-year-old top goalscorer Linda Caicedo that brought la mechita the title. In the following Copa Libertadores, América came third. 

Underwater Rugby World Champions

A sport not known by many, but Colombia is one of the best nations. It has traditionally been dominated by the Nordic countries and Germany, but at the World Championships in Graz, Austria this year, the Colombian men broke through by taking their first ever World Championship title after victories over powerhouses Finland, Denmark and Norway. The women claimed the bronze medal for the second time, after a semi final defeat on shootouts against World Champions Norway. 

Copa América quarter final spot

After six years of Pékerman it is now Carlos Queiroz’s turn to make an impact in charge of the Colombian national team . His first serious assignment with Colombia was the Copa América in Brazil, which saw VAR make its debut in the tournament. The first game was a massive success with a dominant 2-0 victory over a lacklustre Argentina, and Colombia ended up cruising through their group winning it with a 100% record. 

The next real test came in the quarter finals against Chile. Colombia’s defence was rock solid, not conceding a single goal all tournament, but los cafeteros couldn’t break the Chilean wall either. William Tesillo was the only man to miss a penalty for Colombia, while the Chileans converted each spot-kick, making it a disappointing outcome for what had been until then an interesting tournament.

Medal haul Pan American Games

The Pan American Games were a successful affair for Colombia. In Lima the country collected 28 gold, 23 silver and 33 bronze medals at the multi-sport event held every four years. Mariana Pajón is getting back to where she was before her injury, claiming the women’s BMX gold medal, a positive feat with the Olympic Games in Tokyo coming up next year. 

Swimming is usually not a strongpoint in Colombian sports, but at the Parapan American Games that was completely different. 25 swimming gold medals was the impressive outcome this tournament, in which they collected 47 gold, 36 silver and 50 bronze medals.

The rest of the action

Leidy Solís won a gold medal at the World Weightlifting Championships, Manzana Postobon took home 25 medals at the World Roller Games in Barcelona, Spain, and the first ever women’s AFL match in Colombia took place with the Bogotá Bulldogs easily defeated a combined German and American team. In Lima, Colombia finished fourth in the South American Cricket Championships, the only team to beat winners Argentina.

Sara López was World Cup Champion in compound archery and world number one María José Rodríguez took home gold in the Las Vegas 10-pin bowling World Championships, along with a team gold for Colombia. In men’s football, Junior won the first league and DIM the cup, while everybody except Equidad flattered to deceive in the continental competitions.