In this monthly column, Freek Huigen will keep you up to date on the Colombian preparations for the world’s biggest sporting festival
The biggest sporting event of the year, the Olympic Games, will come to Rio de Janeiro in August. Colombia is hoping to put in yet another record breaking performance, even though many athletes have yet to qualify in the pre-Olympic tournaments.
With five months to go before the opening ceremony on August 5, at least 85 Colombian athletes will participate in Rio. Five qualifications were obtained last month in various aquatic disciplines and three more in wrestling. Sebastián Morales came tenth in the Olympic qualification tournament for Rio in the three metre springboard diving, a spot that gave the diver, 21, his ticket to the Olympic Games. During the same tournament, Sebastián Villa missed out on qualification for the three metre springboard, although he was more successful in the 10 metre springboard. Together with Victor Hugo Ortega, who also finished on the qualifying side of the scoreline, he secured his spot in the diving competition in Rio.
A few days later Mónica Sarai Arango and Estefanía Álvarez propelled the number of participants upwards to 79. The duo ended the synchronised swimming competition with a qualifying eleventh place finish, booking their flights to Rio and joining the hunt for medals. Together with Jorge ‘la trucha’ Murillo from the 100 and 200 metre breaststroke events, the five will grace the Olympic waters this August.
The other aquatic athlete already qualified for Rio is Santiago Grillo in windsurfing. In the RS:X class the 28 year old athlete will enjoy his third Olympic appearance, looking to improve on his 35th and 37th spots in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 respectively.
There were three more qualifications at the Pan American Olympic wrestling qualifier in Frisco, Texas – taking the Colombian count in the sport to five. Carolina Castillo secured a spot after the 25 year-old made it to the final of the 48 kilogram women’s freestyle event. That’s good enough for direct qualification to Rio. In the men’s tournament, Carlos Izquierdo achieved the same result, making it to the final in the 74 kilogram freestyle category. In the Greco-Roman Style, Carlos Muñoz qualified in the 75 kilogram catagory. Jackeline Rentería, who has already qualified, is the wrestler with the biggest chance of a medal. Rentería took two consecutive bronze medals in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and is still at the top in the 55 kilogram freestyle division.
D-Day looms for the men’s Olympic football team. The winner of a play-off with the United States will qualify directly for the Olympic Games. The Olympic football tournament consists of the Under 23 squads, consisting of players born on or after January 1 1993. A dispensation ruling, allowing three older players to join the team could see any of James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao or Juan Guillermo Cuadrado fulfilling an Olympic dream.
The first step though, is a home and away qualification tie against the United States. March 25 sees the first leg in Barranquilla at 3.30pm and four days later the return match in Frisco, Texas, kicks off at 8.30pm.
For Carlos Quinchará, qualification to Rio draws ever closer, the triathlete having won two competitions in the America’s Cup is quickly closing in on securing his place. Hoping to join him are dozens of other Colombian athletes that are still in the running for a much-desired trip to that ultimate summit of sports, the Olympic Games.
By Freek Huigen