Latin America arrives at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics with modest objectives. Just seeing some of its 33 participants place in the top 20 of any specialty would be a success.
At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the best performing Latin American was Chile’s Stephanie Joffroy, who finished in 19th place in ski cross (cross-country skiing).
Of the region’s 34 participants four years ago, only four made it into the top 20 of any field. Apart from Joffroy, three athletes finished in 20th place in specialties like skating and snowboarding.
The upcoming Games will probably deliver similar results. Latin America has a similar number of participants (33 this time) but none of them are medal candidates – breaking into the top 10 would be a surprise.
In Alpine skiing, the queen of winter sports with Argentines and Chileans at the fore, entering the top 20 would be an achievement although the last two Games have shown even finishing above 30th to be difficult.
Argentina is sending six athletes, as against seven in Pyeongchang four years ago, including two in Alpine skiing with Francesca Baruzzi as the trump card and Vero Ravenna, who grew up in Canada and finished 24th in the 2018 Games, as the representative for luge sledding.
"The objective is to improve on the results of the previous Games and show the youngsters that with effort they can accede to an event as important as the Olympic Games,” said Martín Begino, vice-president of the Federación Argentina de Ski y Andinismo (Argentine Ski and Mountaineering Federation, FASA) and head of the national delegation in China, said in an interview.
Brazil and Argentina lead the way
Argentina will have the second largest Latin American delegation after Brazil with 10 representatives (of whom four make up its bobsleigh team).
The best two performances at the Games historically come from the same two nations: Argentina, fifth in bobsleigh in the Saint Moritz Games of 1928 and Brazil with its ninth place finish by Isabel Clark in Turin 2006.
"Winning a medal is tough if you can only work with the National Olympic Committee without state financial assistance for the federations. The Olympic committee is working on a plan to promote and improve sports,” Bolivian delegation chief Marco Luque said in an interview.
“I believe the problem to be structural. If all the players – and I’m referring to the state, sport federations, the Olympic committee and departmental structures – do not work together, the results can only be the product of chance," said Luque, who is repeating the same representatives as in Pyeongchang (Austrian-born Alpine skier Simon Breitfus and cross-country skier Timo Gronlund of Finnish origin).
Born outside the region
The recourse to foreign-born athletes with some connection to the country characterises the make up of various teams. German-born Ornella Oettl Reyes represents Peru since it is the birthplace of her mother. Sarah Escobar, born in the United States with parents from Ecuador, is a similar case. The Austrian Breitfus has spent many seasons in Bolivia while Gronlund represents that country due to his wife being Bolivian. Three of the four Mexican participants, meanwhile, were born or brought up north of thee Río Grande.
Skier Sarah Schleper, who has competed four times for the United States, is representing Mexico for her second Games after marrying a Mexican. Another Alpine skier, Rodolfo Dickson, has made his entire career in Canada although he was born in Puerto Vallarta and adopted by a Canadian family when he was three. Mexican cross-country skier Jon Soto, has spent most of his life in Minnesota where he still lives. Two Puerto Rican representatives originated on the US mainland: William Flaherty (slalom) and Kellie Delka (skeleton bobsled).
Among all the Latin American participants, one has already entered history – Brazilian Jaqueline Mourão, 46, who will be the Latin American woman with the most Olympic presences at her eighth event. Participating in all the Winter Olympics since Turin 2006, the cross-country skier has also competed in mountain biking at three Summer Olympics – Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and Tokyo 2020.
by Pablo San Roman, AFP