Colombian athletes this week in Rio

I love the Olympics. Fortunately, my host dad also loves sports. Unfortunately, we don’t have quite the same taste in sports, so he’s often watching the one out of five channels that is showing something I couldn’t care less about. It’s been a great topic of conversation regardless, both at home and at the schools.

When I walk into a teacher’s lounge, the staff starts talking to me about Michael Phelps (who I could have sworn – and did swear to my host dad – retired, but I guess he’s back winning golds). I try to turn the conversation to their athletes instead (sorry in advance for the lack of photos, but copyrights and all y’know?):

Oscar Figueroa

This dude’s been number one, as the first gold medal winner of the games.

I just learned this, but weight lifting champions are determined by the sum of two scores: the snatch and the clean and jerk; at each subsequent weight, the lifter gets three attempts to lift it. In the video below, Figueroa has actually already won the gold, lifting 318 pounds with the snatch and 388 with the clean and jerk (of course, weights are actually in kg in the Olympics, but I don’t understand those). In this clip, he is taking his third attempt at 179kg – you know, just for fun/to try to break a record. What this clip doesn’t show is him then removing his shoes as a symbol of his retirement. What does a 33 year-old former powerlifter do in retirement?


Yuri Alvear

Yuri Alvear came to the 2016 Olympics after winning a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics. While in an interview prior to her bouts at Rio, she said she just wanted to improve upon her London performance, she apparently specifically meant that she wanted the gold and nothing less. After she lost to Japanese fighter Haruka Tachimoto in the final round, she apologized in an interview for not winning gold. So that’s silly.

Leidy Solis

Another weightlifter (remember that time I wrote about the gyms?), Leidy (“lady”) fell just short of winning bronze when she failed to complete a 321 pound clean and jerk. 321 pounds. And homegirl’s much smaller than me at 152 pounds. Dannnnng.  There are a couple of other weightlifters coming up in the events, so we’ll see how they fare.

Sergio Luis Henao

This one’s a heartbreaker. First of all, Colombia loves cycling, especially road cycling. And Sergio was in the lead in the first road race of Rio, along with Italian  cyclist Vincenzo Nibali. The race, a 147 mile course, was almost over – just 8 miles to go. As the two leaders took a curve, they both crashed. The Polish racer immediately behind them took advantage of the situation and sped ahead, and apparently word spread through the pack quickly and racers began to sprint to take the lead. Ultimately a Belg…a Belgian racer won the race.


The women’s team was eliminated in the first round, but the men’s team (who beat the USMNT U-23 team back in March/April to gain their position in the Olympics) will be playing against Brazil on Saturday in the quarterfinals.


Something that the conversation always comes back to when Colombian Olympic athletes are being discussed – especially after Figueroa’s gold medal win – is the fact that successful athletes in this country get to the Olympics on their own through hard work and determination. Indeed, I doubt that Leidy Solis, a fruit vendor from the Pacific coast, has a place like the US Olympic training center to go to. She’s undoubtedly training, like I do each week, in a little gym that was converted from someone’s back patio space.



About the author

Mountain View

A little about me!

Hey! I'm Brianna Hope, a born & bred midwesterner embarking on an adventure as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia. I am clumsy, I spill a lot, and I share most of my interests with 6 year-olds.

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The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Colombian Government.


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