Four weightlifters, four finalists?
PREDICTIONS... a favorite activity
of sports fans here, excited about Cuba’s
performance beginning July 27 at the London Olympics
and the possibility of redeeming ourselves after
finishing 28th in the Beijing medal count (2-11-11).
Athletics and martial arts should be
the country’s big winners in London. Among the
latter, there is plenty of confidence in the
wrestling team. Let’s take a look at how Cuba’s
principal Olympic prospects have performed over the
last four years, to see who might bring home a medal.
Twelve Cuban wrestlers have qualified, among the 344
Olympic champion Mijaín López (120
kg), Pablo Shorey (84) and Pedro Isaac (66) were
just about perfect at the Milone International
Tournament, held in the Italian city of Sassari,
with 95 wrestlers from 22 countries competing.
Mijaín defeated Tunisian Chebi
Radhouane in the final, while Shorey eliminated
Austrian Arnet Hrustanovic. Isaac took a silver
medal, falling victim to the veteran South Korean
Jung Ji Hyun, Athens ’04 Olympic champion.
Their accomplishments during the
three World competitions of the period would
indicate that they are all in position to win a
medal. Very few of their most challenging rivals
have been able to repeat winning performances.
Let’s start with Mijaín, Cuba’s most
serious title contender, despite the emergence of
Turkey’s Riza Kayaalp. López won the Herning ’09 and
Moscow ’10 championships, and placed second in
Kayaalp won bronze medals in the
2009 and 2010 events and the championship in 2011.
Everyone is looking forward to this match-up, but
Kazakhstan’s Nurmajan Tinaliyev and Armenian Yuri
Patrikeyev, among others, should not be overlooked.
Shorey won a bronze medal in Denmark
and a silver in Russia. His most challenging
opponent appears to be Turkey’s Namzi Avluca, the
only wrestler who has also repeated a medal-winning
performance, with a gold and a bronze.
Alim Selimau from Belarus and
Bulgarian Jristo Diyanov could be just as dangerous,
while Russia and Iran’s representatives should not
be taken lightly.
Russian Ambako Vachadze could be a
problem for Isaac, along with Georgian, Manujar
Tsajadaia and South Korean Kim Hyeon-Woo.
In the freestyle, only Pinar del
Río’s Liván López (66) has a reasonable chance of
winning a medal, given his bronze in Istanbul.
Standing in his way are Iran’s Mhedi Kermani,
Cabrayil Hasanov from Azerbaijan and the Japanese
wrestler Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu, who all won two medals
during the last four-year period.
Completing the talented Cuban team
is Yowlys Bonne (60) from Guantánamo and Catherine
Videaux (63) from Holguin, who have yet to win
medals but who have made great progress physically
These two must respectively get past
Russia’s Besik Kudujov, winner of three World
Championships and Kaori Icho from Japan, with the
last two titles under her belt.
This may serve as a brief summary of
the struggle about to unfold on the mats in London.
Beginning August 5, we shall see if Cuba can
maintain its winning tradition, continuing the
string of victories won since Barcelona ’92.