Colombian sports had its fair share of ups and downs in 2015: Caterine Ibargüen extended her winning streak in the triple jump for another year, Mariana Pajón won yet another gold medal, the women’s football squad qualified for the Olympic Games, Jossimar Calvo made a breakthrough on bars at the international stage and Nairo Quintana took second place in the Tour de France. But it was also a year that saw the erratic performances of James and co at the Copa América in Chile, Sara López unable to retain her World Championship title in archery, Darleys Perez losing his lightweight boxing title and Juan Pablo Montoya missing out on his dream IndyCar series trophy in the final race of the season by a single point.
2016 will bring even more excitement. The sports year will stand or fall on the country’s performance in Rio de Janeiro. The Olympic Games is the big spectacle and Colombia has every possibility to shine. In London 2012, the delegation put in the nation’s best ever performance, bringing home three silver and four bronze medals, plus of course a gold medal for Mariana Pajón. There are high hopes that the record will be broken in Brazil.
While the Olympic Games may be the biggest sporting event on the calendar, it won’t be the only event in which we will scream and cheer Colombia to the podium. The centennial edition of the Copa América will take place in the United States. Nairo Quintana will again battle for the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. Montoya and Gabby Chaves are expected to continue their race for the IndyCar series title.
And, if you want to take in some sporting action direct from the stands, Colombia is hosting a whole range of top sports events. Sadly, Bogotá has lost the rights to host the men’s ATP tennis tournament, but Colombia will welcome a new world class sports event in the form of a squash tournament in Cartagena, featuring the sport’s best international players. We will also get to see the FIFA Futsal World Cup and the World BMX Championships in Medellín, the women’s WTA tennis stars in Bogotá and lots of other events.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 5 – 21
Rio de Janeiro will host this year’s Olympic Games. With less than eight months to go before the Opening Ceremony the question everyone is asking is whether the city will be ready in time. There are, however, no such doubts about the Colombian delegation.
Caterine Ibargüen and Mariana Pajón are clear favourites for gold in the triple jump and the BMX respectively.
The leaping lady goes into the year with an unparalleled unbeaten run, having continued with victories in all the big tournaments. Pajón was responsible for the country’s only gold medal in London and, still ranked number one in the women’s BMX, she is the undisputed favourite in this discipline.
These two champions aside, there are a whole host of other contenders for titles. 67 spots have already been confirmed for Colombian athletes and the list is sure to grow as the year goes on.
For a start, there are already 20 athletics hopefuls. Then there’s Jackeline Rentería and Andrea Olaya to watch out for in wrestling. Rentería already has two Olympic bronze medals but she is looking to take gold. Plus, the performance of the women’s football team in the World Cup last year showed that they are a team to be reckoned with.
Though they have yet to qualify officially, other candidates for silverware are Carlos Oquendo in BMX, the cycling team with Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Uran, Ana María Rendón in archery, Jossimar Calvo in gymnastics, Yuri Alvear in judo, Katherine Dumar in taekwondo, and Fabián Puerta in track cycling.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 7 – 18
Coming hot on the heels of the Olympics, the Paralympics promise plenty of action. Keep an eye on Carlos Serrano, who picked up five gold medals in swimming in the Parapan American Games when he was only 16 years old. Now, just turned 18, he has huge potential to take more trophies on the world stage.
United States, June 3 – 26
In addition to the continuation of the qualification cycle for the 2018 World Cup, Colombia has another big football date: the Copa América. The centennial edition is taking place in the US, exactly 100 years after the first edition in Uruguay. Colombia didn’t have a convincing run in 2015 but James did get picked in UEFA’s team of the year, and it would be a mistake to rule them out.
Tour de France
France / Andorra, July 2 – 24
Nairo Quintana came 1 minute and 12 seconds short of pushing Chris Froome off the top spot in the penultimate stage last year, and he will be seeking revenge in the summer. The route is less suited for the escarabajo as there are more time trials and less climbing than in 2015, but Nairo is convinced the yellow jersey could end up in Colombian hands this year.
The IndyCar circus will take off again on March 13. Last year ended in a big disappointment for the now 40-year old Juan Pablo Montoya, as he lost his comfortable lead in the Series in the final race of the season. He is back and hungry for the title. Gabby Chaves, rookie of the year in 2015, will also feature, along with Carlos Muñoz who takes the Colombian count to three. Carlos Huertas and Sebastián Saavedra are still looking for seats in one of the cars that isn’t filled yet.
Events in Colombia
Bucaramanga, Cali, Ibagué and Medellín, September 10 – October 1
For the first time in history the FIFA Futsal World Cup will be held in Colombia.
There are two international Futsal governing bodies – the AMF and FIFA. Colombia dominates the AMF competition, but is not so visible on the FIFA scene. So, it’s no small feat that FIFA are holding their biggest indoor football competition in the host cities of Bucaramanga, Cali, Ibague and Medellín.
Cartagena, Plaza de Aduana, February 16 – 20
The crème de la crème of international squash will land in Cartagena for a PSA 100 event, making it one of the best ranked tournaments in the world. Miguel Rodriguez, the Colombian world number five, will be the flag bearer on home soil in the beautiful Plaza de Aduana, which will host the tournament.
Bogotá, July 31
National and international athletes will hit Bogotá for the city’s half marathon, a landmark in the Latin American running calendar. With 45,000 starting places available there is plenty of opportunity for the recreational runner too, both for 21 and 10 kilometres.
Bogotá, Club el Rancho, April 9 – 17
The 2015 WTA Tour brings women’s tennis to Bogotá again this April for the Claro Open Colsanitas. Expect some fast paced court action and all the highs and lows of such a high level tournament. In 2015 Mariana Duque’s quarterfinal appearance marked her way back to the top 100.
Medellín, May 25 – 29
Mariana Pajón is the absolute favourite and star of the show as the BMX World Championships come to her home turf in Medellín. As Pajón and Carlos Oquendo line up along the best from the rest of the world, it looks set to be a spectacular tournament.
By Freek Huigen