After 16 exciting days, the Games of the XXXI Olympiad came to a close in Rio de Janeiro last night. And just like four years ago, it’s time for Caracas Chronicles to review how Venezuelan athletes fared in Brazil.

Venezuela got three shiny medals at Rio 2016: one silver (Yulimar Rojas in women’s triple jump) and two bronzes (Stephany Hernandez in women’s BMX cycling and Yoel Finol in men’s flyweight boxing).

The overall performance ties with Los Angeles 1984 as our best Olympic effort ever. However, it’s not that much of a “golden generation” if you return home without winning any gold medal.

At one medal for every 10.3 million inhabitants, Venezuela was 68th worldwide in Medals-per-Capita: ahead of Argentina, Brazil and even countries like Ethiopia, which do great in the track but are full of people. Hell, we even have more medals per capita than China.

Not that Nicolas Maduro and the government are complaining. Quite the opposite. The Wall Street Journal’s Venezuelan correspondent Anatoly Kurmanaev has piles on the details:

Desperate for good news amid an economic collapse, Venezuela’s socialist government is boasting about becoming a sporting superpower during the Olympics, with President Nicolas Maduro crowing about the success of a “Generation of Gold.”

Throughout the Olympics, Maduro and his ministers have talked about the inspirational success of the country’s athletes, made possible only thanks to the country’s Socialist Revolution…

Yet, the disappointing results have not stopped them from claiming the athletes’ success as the Revolution’s. Take the case of silver medalist Yulimar Rojas, who unwillingly became part of the political tug-of-war we’re living in. Exhibit A: State broadcaster TVes painful interview with Rojas.

But wait, there’s more. I’ll present you Exhibit B, again from Kurmanaev’s great report.

Both sides of the country immediately tried to claim as their own Rojas, a 20-year-old athlete from a shantytown in eastern Venezuela who became an instant national celebrity this week.

“We gave her all the support in the world and the best trainers, all thanks to the Bolivarian Revolution and the Commander Chavez,” said Diosdado Cabello, Vice President of the ruling United Socialist Party.

The head of the opposition-controlled congress, Henry Ramos, responded by thanking Rojas for “raising across the world the good image of Venezuela, which this regime has been trying to destroy for 17 years.”

The fact is that Rojas has been living and training in Spain for the past two years, according to a senior sport official from her native Anzoategui state, who asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak to the press.

Interestingly enough, some of the biggest flops from the Venezuelan delegation came from two open supporters of the government: One, Ruben Limardo, not only 2012 Olympic gold medallist and Rio 2016 flagbearer but also a PSUV candidate in last year’s legislative elections for Bolivar State. All his hopes to win a consecutive second gold medal ended up right in the 1st round of the individual men’s epée. At least, he got a Olympic Diploma after finishing eighth in the men’s team epée (along with fellow fencers Silvio Fernandez, Kelvin Caña and brother Francisco Limardo).

Former Sports Minister Alejandra Benitez did a little bit better in women’s individual sabre, winning her preliminary bout. She lost her subsequent fight. She probably got more public  attention by openly wearing a shirt with the “Chavez’s Eyes” version of the Olympic Rings.

But other Venezuelan athletes have other things in their minds beside competing in the games. Reuters’ correspondent Alexandra Ulmer was also in Rio and spoke with some of them:

Most Venezuelan athletes have kept a low profile in Rio, preferring to focus on performance rather than politics…

In interviews with about a dozen of the athletes, several confessed to have something else on their minds, however: stocking up on food, medicines and other basic goods to take back home.

Beach volleyball player Norisbeth Agudo said family and friends had asked her for medicine and cosmetics while sailor Jose Gutierrez said he wanted to take home medicines.

“That’s not the reason I’m here,” said Gutierrez, who lives in the capital, Caracas.

“I’m here to think about the competition … but of course I use the opportunity to bring home things that we need.”

The overall result is mixed. El Estimulo’s Alexis Correia has a nice recap of both the big surprises and also the letdowns.

In the end, Venezuela got not only three medals but also twelve olympic diplomas. That’s ain’t bad. But just like in the prior Olympics in London and last year’s Pan-Am Games in Toronto, our neighbors Colombia surpassed us handly in Rio. Says who? Counts. Lots of them… all of them.

Colombia got the same number of medals as last tie: eight. But this time they got three golds instead of one, fulfilling their expectations. They got 22 diplomas as well, almost doubling us. Even their delegation (147) was larger than ours (87). In the only count that really matters, Colombia was 23rd while Venezuela tied with Bulgaria in 65th place (they won the same medals as we did).

For me, one of the most powerful images of these games is the fact that two of the three medals won by Venezuelans (Stephany and Yurimar) were in events where Colombians actually got the gold (Mariana Pajon and Caterine Ibargüen). Looks at first as a happy couple of coincidences, but in the larger picture it simply confirms the meteoric rise of Colombia in the global sport stage.

And doesn’t look like this trend will stop soon: Colombia will host the 2017 Bolivarian Games in Santa Marta and the Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla the following year (replacing original host Guatemala). They’re considering bidding for the 2023 Pan Am Games too. But they should take things easy. Overconfidence brings disappointment. Just ask the Australians.

The lesson of Rio 2016 is to give our athletes all the support possible. And that means not only to open government cheerleaders or sons of Boliburgueses who just want to have some sporty fun. The help could help hammer thrower Rosa Rodriguez to try and surpass expectations again (she surprised many by making the finals and finishing 10th) or even not forcing some to sell some of their stuff to pay for their training, like the experience of open water swimmer Erwin Maldonado.

An Olympic cycle is over and another one has already begun. After all, four years it’s a long way to Japan. And about that, I want to make a quick suggestion to Tokyo 2020: Seems like you will embrace videogames (It’s a me, Shinzo!), so maybe you can use this theme for the boxing.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Al ojo por ciento, I estimate that with Venezuela’s population and GDP we should aim to bring home between 5 and 10 medals, one of them being gold.

    Changing subjects a bit, it seems to me Mexico and Chile are massive underperformers in the region, what’s up with that?

  2. This whole Glory in Proportion thing is fun…

    Rank Country Weighted Medals GDP GDP per Weighted Medal
    1 Grenada 2 0 1 0 0.82 0.41
    2 Jamaica 32 6 3 2 15.07 0.47
    3 Kenya 37 6 6 1 33.62 0.91
    4 Fiji 4 1 0 0 3.81 0.95
    5 Armenia 10 1 3 0 10.25 1.02
    6 Georgia 14 2 1 4 14.37 1.03
    7 Burundi 2 0 1 0 2.33 1.16
    8 N. Korea 16 2 3 2 22.00 1.38
    9 Bahamas 5 1 0 1 7.79 1.56
    10 Tajikistan 4 1 0 0 6.52 1.63

  3. Venezuelans should celebrate when every one of them can go for a simple vigorous walk, outside, in the fresh air, any time they bloody well want to.

    Olympic medal counts are the second last refuge of scoundrels and despots.

  4. Thats always the way with failed regimes that cant feed their people or give them a decent life , they tend to go for privileging those activities that make for the most showy spectacles, space satellites /flights and international athletic events, which tickle the national conceit without adding one bit to anybodys quality of life ,,,,,!! think of Cuba , the former Soviet Union and now poor Venezuela !!

    Think of what it costs us to send a promising athlete to train for two years with sport specialist in far away spain…….!! I say half the medal probably should go to Spain for training our athletes!!

  5. Uh-oh! I won’t contain the temptation of bringing Pastor Maldonado (AKA bola e’ perro*) uber cost to Venezuela and how the Chavista chauvinism negated a lot of resources to our Olympic team in order to finance the F1 largesse…

    (*) Por que siempre llega mas atrás que las bolas del perro. Pardon my El Valle French.

  6. In the early 1960´s Venezuela had a good team of Track and Field athletes, many of them self made, others discovered in Track and Field meetings held by the Oil Companies (Shell, Creole).

    Here is a link with their names, pictures and performances: http://saltoancho.blogspot.com/2016/07/madrid-1962-una-generacion-eterna-los.html

    In the 1964 Olympic games the 4 x 100 relay made it to the finals and were running in the 4th spot in the last baton change, until Bob Hayes from USA blew past everybody, they would arrive in 6th place, tied with Italy and both breaking former Olympic record with 39,5. : https://youtu.be/mh-YLy_wnrc

    Results: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athletics_at_the_1964_Summer_Olympics_%E2%80%93_Men%27s_4_%C3%97_100_metres_relay

  7. Limardo es un vendido que demostró que sus principios sólo son proporcionales a la cantidad de dólares que le “depositan”, primero le echó paja podrida y gorda al régimen porque no le liquidaron las lechugas y luego se metió a candidato por la AN, otro espécimen de los willian ojudas y ricardo puerquito shánchez, pues.

    Es curioso que la página de la Wiki de la Benítez no diga nadita de nada de su alcagüeteada de los miserables desgraciados que desfalcaron cientos de millones de dólares del ministerio de deportes cuando ella fué ministro, donde alegó que no iba a decir quienes eran los ladrones para “proteger su dignidad como deportistas”, porque a esa perra le parece mucho más importante la “dignidad de deportista” de un piche ladrón a las vidas de los centenares de personas que se están muriendo o que ya estiraron la pata por la escasez de medicinas sólo por mencionar una consecuencia del desfalco.

    Podrán ganarse diez medallas de oro cada uno, pero igual esos dos seguirán siendo unos canallas por lo que hacen y por su postura apoyando al régimen.

    En el artículo mencionan que “ambos lados intentaron abrogarse los logros de Rojas”, donde Kurmarev intenta relacionar el que HRA le haya agradecido a Rojas que “mejora la imagen de Venezuela” con la clase de oportunismo barato que demuestra el narco-tenientico cuando clama que ella sólo pudo llegar ahí gracias a shhiiiabbbeee.

  8. Check here a video with Venezuelan track and field Athletes from the 60´s, many self made or discovered in track and field meetings sponsored by the oil companies (Shell, Creole):

    http://saltoancho.blogspot.com/2016/07/madrid-1962-una-generacion-eterna-los.html

    In Rome 60 the 4 x 100 Venezuelan Relay arrived 5th in the finals and in Tokio 64 in the same race they arrived 6th, beating with Italy former Olympic record see this video:

    https://youtu.be/mh-YLy_wnrc

  9. Are there filters for links to You Tube ? I tried to post a You Tube video of Venezuela in the 64 Tokio Olympics (better days …)

    Check the 4 x 100 relay finals were Venezuela arrived 6th, 39.5 seconds, tied with italy both beat Olympic record use Google with key words USA 4 x 100 relay tokio 1964

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