In this month’s road to Rio, our monthly column that keeps you up to date with the Colombian Olympic preparations, we take a look at the latest athletes that have qualified
With less than two months to go until the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the torch relay has begun. Official organisers say they are on track to finish the venues, while here in Colombia, hopes are high for another record breaking performance.
At 128 strong, the Colombian delegation keeps growing, already greatly surpassing the 104 athletes who travelled to London in 2012. And some sports still have qualification spots up for grabs.
The cut off point for BMX cyclists to qualify was the World Championships in Medellín, and as expected, three Colombian athletes will be spinning their wheels in the Brazilian capital.
Olympic medal winners at London 2012, Mariana Pajón and Carlos Oquendo will be accompanied by up-and-coming cyclist Carlos Ramírez.
The cycling crazy nation also decided upon their representative for the mountain biking discipline. The established procedure from the Colombian federation means that the place goes to a rider who’s placed in the top 15 in a World Cup race or to the highest ranked Colombian at the end of the qualification cycle. Jhonnatan Botero ticked both boxes. The 24 year-old mountain biker, currently ranked at world number 63, took 12th place in the most recent World Cup held in La Bresse, France. He is not a direct medal contender for silverware, but hailing from the land of cyclists, nobody can be ruled out.
In athletics the recent qualification by Mauricio Ortega has brought the tally to 27 Colombians at the Olympic athletics tournament. The discus thrower reached 65.84 metres in an athletics event held in Jablonec, Czech Republic. The distance was enough for a new national record and Olympic qualification. The 21 year-old Ortega has had a good reference, as he hails from Apartadó, Antioquia, the same city that brought forth Caterine Ibargüen. After football – where 18 players will be present for both the men’s and women’s tournament – Colombia’s biggest representation will be in track and field.
A further three places will likely come from tennis, although they are not yet confirmed. Mariana Duque-Mariño could be playing in the women’s event. It had been a pretty average season for Duque-Mariño until her showing in the final of the WTA tour event in Nuremberg, Germany, which catapulted her up the ranking, while surviving one round at Roland Garros did the rest. Colombia’s top duo Juan Sebastián Cabal and Robert Farah are also close to making it into the doubles event. They were ousted in the first round of Roland Garros, but they are on track to make it to the Olympics.
The coming weeks will decide whether Yuri Alvear and her Judo colleagues will push the number even further up. Camilo Villegas is looking safe for the golf tournament, while Sebastián Muñoz is on the reserve list. Muñoz put in another strong performance in the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic and is closing in on a spot that will see him swinging his club in the first ever Olympic Golf tournament.
By Freek Huigen