Cuba expecting better show at London Olympics
Havana, July 19 (IANS) The Cuban delegation is heading to London for the 30th Olympic Games without the usual medal forecast, saying it just hopes to improve on its dismal performance at Beijing 2008.
"At Beijing we got two gold (medals), this time we hope to achieve all we can," the Director of High Performance at the National Sports Institute (INDER) Norge Marrero was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
Cuba is sending a delegation of 110 athletes, including 45 women, to compete in 14 of the 26 disciplines featured at the summer sporting event, including track and field, boxing, diving, wrestling, weightlifting, swimming, shooting and table tennis.
The island nation's 165 competitors to the Beijing Olympics brought back 24 medals, including two gold, 11 silver and 11 bronze, placing Cuba in 28th place in the global medals count.
"At London 2012, many Cuban sports disciplines can win medals," Marrero said.
Cuban sportscasters have predicted some 20 medal wins, as well as three or four Olympic titles, at the July 27 to August 12 event.
Cuba's strengths this year are primarily in combat sports (boxing, wrestling and judo) and track and field.
Widely expected to attain a medal is Greco-Roman wrestler Mijain Lopez, winner in the 120-kilo category at Beijing, who will be the delegation's flag bearer for the second time during the inaugural parade.
Cuba's other Olympic star, 110-metre hurdles world record holder Dayron Robles is also expected to bring back a medal, despite suffering some setbacks in the current season.
Cuban boxing, which has won 32 Olympic titles throughout its history, is hoping to compensate for its middling performance at Beijing, where for the first time in four decades it failed to secure a gold medal, though it did obtain four silver and four bronze.
Eight Cuban boxers are competing at the games, including world champions Julio Cesar La Cruz (81 kg) and Lazaro Alvarez (56 kg). According to three-time Olympian and six-time world champion Felix Savon, the boxing squad could win four or five gold medals.
Cuban judo, winner of six medals in China (0-3-3), is another of the island's strengths. The nine-member squad includes several female Olympic medallists, such as the talented Asley Gonzalez, who has defeated all the world's best in the 90-kg division.
Traditionally strong in track and field, Cuba is sending 47 competitors to vie in 25 specialties, including Robles, discus thrower Yarelis Barrios and hammer thrower Yipsi Moreno, both of them silver medal winners in 2008.
The Taekwando team may be another one to watch, featuring Robelis Despaigne (+80), Nidia Munoz (-57) and Glenhis Hernandez (+67). Munoz and Hernandez both have career wins over such notable stars as Diana Lopez of the US and Mexico's Maria Espinoza, respectively.
Cuban sports officials are confident the delegation is in "good" physical and psychological shape for these games, but they will be up against more than 10,000 athletes from 205 countries, all vying for just 302 titles.
For its size and economic capability, Cuba has historically outperformed many other nations with larger economies and populations, winning to date a total of 194 medals, mostly gold (67-64-63), in the 18 Olympics it has participated in.
Its best past performances have been at Moscow 1980 (8-7-5), where it ranked fourth worldwide in the medals count, and Barcelona 1992 (11-06-14), where it ranked fifth. Its worst performance in four decades was at Beijing.
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