The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are now well underway. The opening ceremony took place on Friday, and as we publish this – with the 15-hour time difference between Central America and Japan – the first and second full days of competition are already over. While we wait for Monday’s action, we figured it would be a great idea to pay homage to the athletes representing Central America at the Olympics. Enjoy our guide to your Central America Olympic athletes.
They’re a year late, but they’re here. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics could be the most unwelcome games in decades.
Ravaged by Covid and unsupported by the Japanese public, there’s an argument they should have cancelled the 23rd Olympiad altogether. It’s not an argument I agree with, but it’s out there.
The reason I don’t agree with the argument to cancel is because of the athletes themselves. The Olympics are the pinnacle of any athletic career, especially in sports that are largely underfunded and little-watched. (The little-watched thing is also great from a spectators point of view. I love how, for two weeks every four years, we all become fans of ping pong, fencing, and hammer throwing. It’s glorious.)
Athletes put their hearts and souls into training for the chance to represent their countries at the Olympics, and taking that away from them is cruel. That goes for all athletes everywhere, but doubly so for those from smaller countries in the developing world. Countries like Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.
Central America is a collection of small countries with small populations and not much money.
That means the region will never see many Olympic medals. Since Central America’s been participating in the Olympics, the region has won eight medals in total (Costa Rica four, Panama three, and Guatemala one). That doesn’t make the effort any less worthy, though.
In this article we want to honor Central America Olympic athletes in Tokyo by naming each one individually. If they’re on social media, we want to give you a way to follow them directly. We’ll look at their Instagram and Twitter accounts, and if they have their own Facebook fan page, we’ll include that, too. That way you can keep up with their heroics in Tokyo.
There are 68 athletes from all seven countries competing in the Olympics plus a football (soccer) team (22 people). Let’s meet them.
Belize is Central America’s least populated country. It first competed in the Olympics in the 1968 Mexico City Games as British Honduras (and again as British Honduras in Munich ’72). From Montreal ’76 onward, Belize went to the Olympics as a fully-independent country and has competed in every one apart from Moscow ’80 when it joined the U.S. boycott that year.
- Amado Cruz (Men’s K-1 100 m and K-1 1,000 m)
- Samantha Dirks (Women’s 400 m): Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
- Shaun Gill (Athletics: Men’s 100 m): Follow him on Instagram
Costa Rica is Central America’s most successful Olympic country, with four medals under its belt.
It first competed at Berlin 1936 but it didn’t win any medals until Seoul ’88, when swimmer Silvia Poll won silver in the Women’s 200 m Freestyle. Her sister, Claudia went on to win Central America’s first ever gold medal at Atlanta ’96, also in the Women’s 200 m Freestyle swimming event.
Claudia also won bronze in Sydney 2000 in both the 200 m and 400 m Women’s Freestyle. Between them, the two sisters have won all Costa Rica’s Olympic medals and they’re national heroes.
Below are the Tico athletes competing in Tokyo right now to join the Poll sisters in Costa Rica’s medal count:
- Luciana Alvarado (Women’s artist individual all-around)
- Ian Sancho (Men’s 66 kg): Follow him on Instagram
- Brisa Hennessy (Women’s shortboard): Follow her on Instagram and Facebook
- Leilani McGonagle (Women’s shortboard): Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
- Carlos Muñoz (Men’s shortboard): Follow him on Instagram and Facebook
- Arnoldo Herrera (Men’s 200 m breaststroke)
- Beatriz Padrón (Women’s 200 m freestyle): Follow her on Instagram
- Nishi Lee Lindo (Women’s 57 kg)
- Gerald Drummond (Men’s 400 m hurdles): Follow him on Instagram and Facebook
- Andrea Vargas (Women’s 100 m hurdles): Follow her on Instagram and Facebook
El Salvador competed in its first Olympics in Mexico City 1968. It went to Munich ’72 and then skipped Montreal ’76 and Moscow ’80, the latter as part of the U.S. boycott. Since Los Angeles ’84, it’s been at every Games.
Meet the Salvadoran Olympians for Tokyo 2020:
- Yamileth Solorzano (Women’s featherweight)
- Enrique Arathoon (Men’s laser)
- Marcelo Acosta (Men’s 800 m and 1,500 m freestyle): Follow him on Facebook
- Celina Márquez (Women’s 100 m and 200 m backstroke): Follow her on Instagram and Twitter
- José Andrés Salazar (Men’s 200 m): Follow him on Facebook
Apart from Honduras, if you include that country’s soccer team, Guatemala has by far the biggest delegation of athletes competing in Tokyo 2020.
Guatemala first competed at Helsinki 1952, but missed 1956, 1960, and 1964. It’s been ever-present ever since, though, and is the only Central American country outside of Costa Rica and Panama to win an Olympic medal.
That happened at London 2012 when Erick Barrondo won silver in the Men’s 20km Walk.
Erick is back competing in Tokyo, hoping for another medal for his country. Alongside him are 23 other athletes:
- Kevin Cordón (Men’s singles): Follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
- Nikté Sotomayor (Women’s singles): Follow her on Instagram and Facebook
- Manuel Rodas (Men’s road race): Follow him on Instagram
- Yulissa López (Women’s lightweight double sculls)
- Jennieffer Zúñiga (Women’s lightweight double sculls): Follow her on Facebook
- Isabella Maegli (Women’s Laser Radial): Follow her on Instagram and Twitter
- Juan Ignacio Maegli (Men’s laser): Follow him on Instagram
- Adriana Ruano (Women’s trap): Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
- Juan Schaeffer (Men’s skeet)
- Waleska Soto (Women’s trap): Follow her on Instagram
- Luis Martinez (Men’s 100 m butterfly): Follow him on Instagram
- Gabriela Santis (Women’s 200 m freestyle): Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
- Luis Grijalva (Men’s 5,000 m): Follow him on Instagram
- Bernando Barrondo (Men’s 50 km)
- Erick Barrondo (Men’s 50 km walk): Follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
- José Barrondo (Men’s 20 km): Follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
- Jose Calel (Men’s 20 km): Follow him on Instagram
- Mayra Herrera (Women’s 20 km): Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
- Jose Ortiz (Men’s 20 km)
- Mirna Ortiz (Women’s 20 km): Follow her on Twitter and Facebook
- Luis Angel Sanchez (Men’s 50 km)
- Scarleth Ucelo (Women’s 87 kg): Follow her on Instagram
Honduras first competed in the Olympics in Mexico City 1968. They didn’t go to Munich 1972 and boycotted Moscow ’80. Outside of that, they’ve competed in every games since.
Below are the Honduran Olympians for Tokyo 2020:
- Cergia David Güity (Women’s 63 kg): Follow her on Instagram
- Julimar Avila (Women’s 200 m butterfly): Follow her on Instagram
- Julio Horrego (Men’s 100 m and 200 m breaststroke): Follow him on Instagram
- Keila Avila (Women’s 67 kg)
- Ivan Zarco (Athletics: Men’s marathon)
Honduras also has its men’s football (soccer) team competing in these Olympics. If you count the 22 members of this squad, Honduras has the biggest Olympic team in Central America. You can follow this team on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Nicaragua is one of Central America’s newer participants at the Olympics, only sending a team for the first time in the Mexico City ’68 Games. Since then, it’s competed in all Olympics apart from Seoul ’88 when it was unable to send a team because of financial issues. Nicaragua’s biggest Olympic success was its fourth-place finish – just missing out on a bronze – for baseball in Atlanta ’96.
Here are Nicaragua’s Tokyo Olympians:
- Izayana Marenco (Women’s 78 kg): Follow her on Instagram
- Evidelia Gonzalez (Women’s single sculls)
- Felix Potoy (Rowing: Men’s single sculls)
- Edwin Barbarena (Shooting: Men’s 10 m air pistol)
- Miguel Mena (Men’s 100 m freestyle)
- Maria Schutzmeier (Women’s 100 m freestyle)
- Yeykell Romero (Men’s 100 m)
- Sema Ludrick (Women’s 64 kg)
Panama was the first Central American country to compete in the Olympics (Amsterdam 1928) and the first to win any medals. Sprinter Lloyd La Beach won two silvers at the London 1948 Games, in the Men’s 100 and 200 meters events. Then in Beijing 2008, long jumper Irving Saladino took home Panama’s first ever gold medal.
This year, the following ten Olympic athletes hope to win more medals for Panama:
- Cristofer Jurado (Men’s road race): Follow him on Instagram
- Kristine Jiménez (Women’s 52 kg): Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
- Miryam Roper (Women’s 57 kg): Follow her on Instagram and Twitter
- Tyler Chistianson (Men’s 200m breaststroke and individual medley): Follow him on Instagram and Twitter
- Emily Santos (Women’s 100m breaststroke): Follow her on Instagram
- Jorge Castelblanco (Men’s marathon): Follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
- Alonso Edward (Men’s 200m): Follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
- Gianna Woodruff (Women’s 400m hurdles): Follow her on Instagram
So there’s your list of Central America Olympic athletes competing in the Tokyo Games right now, all 68 individuals plus the Honduran men’s soccer team to make 90.
We have Central American runners, canoeists, hurdlers, long-jumpers, boxers, cyclists, BMX-ers, judoists, swimmers, walkers, gymnasts, surfers, taekwondoists, weightlifters, rowers, shooters, football players, sailors, badminton players, and pentathletes. They break down like this:
- Football: 22 athletes (Honduras)
- Swimming: 12 athletes (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama)
- Track (Running/hurdles/marathon): 11 athletes (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama)
- Walking: 9 athletes (Costa Rica, Guatemala)
- Judo: 6 athletes (Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama)
- Rowing: 4 athletes (Guatemala, Nicaragua)
- Shooting: 4 athletes (Guatemala, Nicaragua)
- Cycling: 3 athletes (Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama)
- Sailing: 3 athletes (El Salvador, Guatemala)
- Surfing: 3 athletes (Costa Rica)
- Badminton: 2 athletes (Guatemala)
- Boxing: 2 athletes (El Salvador, Panama)
- Taekwondo: 2 athletes (Costa Rica, Honduras)
- Weightlifting: 2 athletes (Guatemala, Nicaragua)
- BMX: 1 athlete (Costa Rica)
- Canoeing: 1 athlete (Belize)
- Field (Long jump): 1 athlete (Panama)
- Gymnastics: 1 athlete (Costa Rica)
- Modern Pentathlon: 1 athlete (Guatemala)
I guess I’m most surprised about the amount of walkers we have in Central America. Especially the fact that most of them come from the same extended family in Guatemala. We seem to have quite a lot of judoists, which is cool. Also love how we have a BMX-er in there, and that every country is represented on the running track. That’s how it should be at the Olympics.
The three sacred tenets of the Olympics are (in my humble opinion) the track, the field, and the swimming pool. As noted just now, every Central American country is on the track, and all but one are in the pool. The field sports seen a little under-represented, but you can’t have everything. Overall there’s a great balance of sports in there.
We wish the best of luck to all our Central America Olympic athletes, whatever their discipline. We’ll try to follow their progress as much as we can (and as much as a 15-hour time difference allows us to). Suerte!
James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.