Olympics Analysis: Spanish Speaking Countries

Another Olympics is over and the patriot in me was very happy to see the USA beat China and Russia in the medal standings (especially if even half of this story is true). But how did the Spanish-speaking world do in London?

The biggest story was Guatemala.  The tiny Central American country joined the Olympic medal winners club when Erick Barrondo crossed the line in second place in the 20km walk.  While racewalking doesn’t have much (any?) prestige in North America, it’s very popular in Central and South America, partly due to the fact that training requires very few resources.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Spain has to be somewhat disappointed with its 17 medals (3 gold) after winning 24 (5 gold) in Beijing in 2008.  While team España did pick up medals in sailing, taekwondo, swimming, canoeing, triathlon, handball, and wrestling, their revered soccer team got sent home early after losing to Honduras, a country one-fifth the size with 1% of the GDP.  The Spanish Women’s Water Polo and Men’s Basketball teams both won silver after playing well but ultimately losing to U.S. teams.

Cuba is next on the medal count list with 14 (10 less than in Beijing).  As usual most of Cuba’s medal haul comes from boxing, with some judo, taekwondo, wrestling, and weightlifting thrown in.  Cuba also received a gold medal in men’s shooting, a silver in women’s pole vault, and a bronze in decathlon.  When you take its population into account, Cuba is the top Spanish-speaking medal winner per capita (and comes in 17th overall according to the “Medal strike rate” compiled by our good friends in New Zealand.)

Colombia and Mexico were the only other Spanish-speaking countries to win more than five medals, with eight and seven respectively.  The Mexico men’s soccer team won a memorable gold-medal match against Brazil.  Mexico also excelled in diving and archery and won a bronze medal in taekwondo.  Colombia found its greatest successes in cycling (BMX and road cycling), weightlifting, judo, and taekwondo and also picked up a silver medal in women’s triple jump.

The other Spanish-speaking countries to win medals in London were Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the aforementioned Guatemala.  While Argentina bucked trends with medals in sailing, field hockey, and tennis, and Venezuela won a gold in fencing, most of the remaining medals were again won in familiar categories of wrestling and taekwondo.

Success in track seems to be almost entirely owned by Caribbean nations and Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are no exception, especially in 400 meter races.  Puerto Rico picked up one of its two medals of the games with a bronze in the men’s 400m hurdles.  The Dominican Republic won gold in the same race and also added a silver in the 400m.

Overall nine of twenty Spanish-speaking countries (not counting the U.S.) won 56 medals (13 gold) in London.

The all-time Spanish-speaking medal count (both summer and winter) looks like this: Cuba (208), Spain (132), Argentina (76), Mexico (62), Colombia (19), Chile (13), Venezuela (12), Uruguay (10), Puerto Rico (8), the Dominican Republic (6), Costa Rica (4), Peru (4), Panama (3), Ecuador (2), Paraguay (1), and Guatemala (1).  For comparison sake, the U.S. stands at 2,653.

In case you’re wondering, only four Hispanic countries have never won an Olympic medal: Bolivia (in 18 attempts), Nicaragua (11), Honduras (11), and El Salvador (10).  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-time_Olympic_Games_medal_table

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