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  • 07 / 03 / 2007

There are those that say the 15th Pan American Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro July 13-29 will be the most difficult test for Cuba. Whats the magnitude of the challenge? With a rich sports history at continental, world and Olympic events, Cuba has become a world class power. Its sights are set high for the upcoming event hosted by Brazil. Achieving past marks and beating them is in the hands of a young contingent of athletes, the majority of whom will be debuting in the Pan American Games. This multiplies the dimension of the challenge to maintain second place in the medal standings, a position held by Cuba since the Cali, Colombia 6th Pan American Games in 1971. The competitiveness of sports competitions worldwide has increased, and the top event of the Americas is no exception. Exaggerated marketing, including the emigration of athletes, the growing influence of professional sports and a visible improvement of the continent in top level competitions are aspects that make it necessary for the Cubans to redouble their efforts. According to the organizing committee, a total of 332 sets of gold, silver and bronze medals will be distributed in Rio. Of those, 221 are concentrated in 12 of the 41 disciplines of competition. Athletics, boxing, cycling, canoeing, rowing, swimming, wrestling, weightlifting, judo, artistic gymnastics and fencing, each with 10 or more titles, will account for two thirds of the gold medals. Therefore, the countries wanting to compete for the top positions in the medal standings must have a large presence on the podiums of these dozen sports disciplines. Heres a look at some statistics from the last Pan American Games held in Santo Domingo in 2003. Note the four leading teams results in the 12 key disciplines. We also look at the first three teams results in the final medal standings. Sports First Place Second Place Third Place Fourth Place Athletics Cuba USA Mexico Brazil Boxing Cuba Dominican Republic USA Mexico Canoeing Cuba Argentina Canada USA Cycling USA Cuba Uruguay Chile Fencing USA Cuba Venezuela Canada Gymnastics Cuba USA Canada Puerto Rico Judo Cuba Brazil USA Venezuela Weightlifting Colombia Venezuela Ecuador USA Wrestling Cuba USA Canada Venezuela Swimming USA Brazil Canada Argentina Rowing Cuba Canada USA Argentina Shooting EE.UU. Cuba Argentina Venezuela First three places in the Santo Domingo 2003 medal standings Country Gold Silver Bronze Total USA 116 81 74 271 Cuba 72 41 39 152 Canada 29 56 42 127 The United States was among the first four in all of the 12 leading sports; Cuba was among the top leaders in 10 and Canada in six. In Santo Domingo the US won 62 percent of its gold medals in these sports, Cuba 82 percent and Canada 38 percent. PAN AMERICAN RIVALRIES? The United States and Cuba have dominated the first and second positions since 1971, far ahead of the next block of teams including Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Of a total of 3,517 gold medals issued, the US has won 1,672 and Cuba 723, for 68 percent of the overall gold medals. The rest are distributed among the other 40 participating countries led by Canada (308), Argentina (247), Brazil (187), and Mexico (137), which together have 879 gold medals or 25 percent of the total. The remaining 36 teams have won only 241 medals combined. In Winnipeg 1999, when Canada hosted the Pan American Games, the hosts came within five gold medals of second place, representing Cubas closest rival since 1971. The difference between the two teams in 1971 was 11, 1975 (39), 1979 (40), 1983 (58), 1987 (45), 1991 (108, in these games Cuba won with 140 and the USA was second with 130), 1995 (65) and 2003 (43). In the 2007 Pan American Games, Brazil, the host is expected to improve its showing. Local sports authorities say they are shooting for third place, also based on the development of sports in the country over the last ten years. Others not to be forgotten are Argentina, winner of the 2006 South American Games which it hosted; and the resurgence of Venezuela, second in that event. Mexico is also on the rise (remember its improved performance at the Central American and Caribbean Games last year n Cartegena), and Colombia, third in Cartagena, where Brazil finished fourth. While the Rio Games finish on July 29 a total of 37 finals are scheduled for July 27 and 58 more on July 28. Thats to say, 95 of the 332 gold medals, 29 percent of the total, will be decided on the final two days of competitions. Source: By Oscar Sánchez, Granma

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