The Olympic Games of Los Angeles 1932 was the third time Mexico competed but it was the first time to do it successfully.
Francisco Cabañas Pardo was the first Mexican to win an Olympic medal. A flyweight boxer, he won the silver medal in Los Angeles 1932. It wasn’t easy for him to participate in this competition. Back then, General Tirso Hernandez was President of Mexico’s Olympic Committee and gave a greater support to fencing and archery. Thus, there were no funds destined to athletics or boxing. The directors, in order to reduce the costs of sending a team, tried to recruit Mexican boxers already living in Los Angeles. After a classification tournament, they were able to gather a team in Mexico but the participants were asked to pay for their own travel expenses. Besides the already great responsibility of being the country’s representative, Cabañas was in great moral debt with those who supported him. His mother gave him all her life’s savings and during a friend’s boxing fight, many attendees gave him money. After a long train ride from Mexico City to Los Angeles, he reached the Olympic Villa ready to compete.
The third round against Hungarian Stephan Enekes ended with the opponent hanging from the ropes, too beat and exhausted to move, while the whole stadium was rooting for Mexico! Suddenly, the referee, a European who hadn’t even tried to hide his favoritism, went to the Hungarian and raised his arm in triumph. The public booed the jury for many minutes. With rage and disappointment, Cabañas accepted the silver medal.
Shooter Gustavo Huet Bobadilla, born in Mexico City in 1911, won silver medal in the 50 m rifle competition, after tying with Swedish Bertil Ronnmark. He died on November 20, 1951 when ran over by a drunk driver on the highway to Puebla, where the Pan American Games were being held and he was on duty as a highway police officer.
At the Olympic Games of Berlin 1936, the Mexican teams won bronze medals in basketball and polo. Fidel Ortiz Tovar also won bronze in boxing.
London 1948 was a great platform for Mexican sports. The first gold medals in Mexico’s history were won by Humberto Mariles Cortés in equestrian individual jumping; the other was for team jumping with his teammates Rubén Uriza Castro and Alberto Valdés Ramos. Rubén Uriza Castro won another medal, silver for individual jumping. They turned this competition into the first “1-2” in the history of Mexican Olympics. Humberto Mariles Cortés, Raúl Campero and Joaquín Solano Chagoya won bronze for equestrian eventing.
Joaquín Capilla Pérez has been the best diver Mexico’s history. He was born on December 23, 1928 in Mexico City. He won bronze for the 10 m platform in London 1948. In Melbourne 1956, he won gold for platform and bronze in the springboard. This great diver was the only Mexican who won a medal in Helsinki 1952, silver in platform diving. He is the greatest Mexican medalist of all times with 4 Olympic medals and the only one to ever achieve medals in more than one Olympic game. His extraordinary domination of this discipline earned him eight gold medals on repeated editions of the Pan American and Central American Games.
Juan Botella Medina was the only Mexican athlete to win a medal at Rome 1960, bronze in 3 m springboard dives. In Tokyo 1964, Juan Favila Mendoza was the only Mexican to win a medal, bronze for boxing.
Mexican athletes were much luckier when Mexico hosted the Olympic Games of 1968. Felipe Muñoz is the only Mexican to ever win a gold medal in swimming for 200m freestyle. He was President of the Mexican Olympic Committee from 2000 to 2005. Ricardo Delgado Nogales won gold in boxing in the 48 to 51 kg category. Antonio Roldán won gold for boxing in the 54 to 57 kg category. José Pedraza Zúñiga won silver in the 20 km walk. Alvaro Gaxiola Robles won silver in 10 m platform dives. María del Pilar Roldán was the first Mexican woman to ever win an Olympic medal, silver in fencing for the individual category. Joaquín Rocha won bronze for boxing in the over 81 kg category and Agustín Zaragoza the bronze medal for boxing in the 71 to 75 kg category. María Teresa Ramírez won another bronze in the free style 800 m swimming competition.
The only medal obtained in the Munich Olympic Games of 1972 was silver in the boxing category of 51 to 54 kg, by Alfonso Zamora. In Montreal 1976, Daniel Bautista won gold for the 20 km walk and Juan Paredes Miranda won bronze in the boxing category of 54 to 57 kg.
The Olympic Games of Moscow 1980 were a great scenario for Mexican athletes. Carlos Girón Gutierrez won a silver medal in 3 m springboard dives. Joaquín Pérez de las Heras won bronze for equestrian individual jumping. This great athlete, together with Jesús Gómez Portugal, Gerardo Tazzer and Alberto Valdés Lacarra won bronze medal for equestrian team jumping. Valdés Lacarra is the son of Lieutenant Colonel Albert Valdes Ramos, Olympic champion in London 1948. This is a unique case, the only time father and son have won medals in Olympic equestrian games. Also in the eventing competition, the Mexican team formed by Manuel Mendivil, David Barcena, José Pérez Soto and Fabián Vázquez won a bronze medal.
In the Olympic Games of Los Angeles 1984, Ernesto Canto won gold in the 20 km walk. Raul Gonzalez Rodriguez won gold in the 50 km walk and silver in the 20 km walk. The result of the walking competition during this edition of the Games became the second “1-2” in Mexico’s Olympic history. Hector Lopez Colin won silver in boxing, Daniel Aceves Villagran silver in Greco-Roman Wrestling and Manuel Youshimatz won bronze in cycling.
During the Seoul 1988 games, Mario Gonzalez won bronze in boxing and Jesus Mena Campos also bronze, in the 10 m platform dives.
In Barcelona 1992, Carlos Mercenario won Mexico’s only medal, silver in the 50 km walk. Mexico also won only one medal in Atlanta 1996, bronze for the great triumph of Bernardo Segura in the 20 km walk.
The Olympic Games of Sydney 2000 had a much better participation of the Mexican athletes. Soraya Jimenez Mendivil won gold in weightlifting and Fernando Platas achieved silver in dives from the 3m springboard. In walking, Noe Hernandez won silver for the 20 km competition and Joel Sanchez Guerrero bronze in 50 km. Christian Bejarano Benitez won bronze in boxing and Victor Manuel Estrada Garibay bronze in Tae-Kwon.Do.
Mexico’s participants also excelled in Athens 2004. Famous Mexican runner Ana Guevara won silver in 400 m and Belem Guerrero Mendez silver of cycling. However, Mexico’s greatest performance was by the Salazar Blanco siblings in Tae-Kwon-Do, where Oscar won silver and Iridia won bronze.
In the recently concluded edition of Beijing 2008, Mexico went home with three medals. Paola Espinosa and Tatiana Ortiz won bronze for synchronized diving in 10 m platform. In Tae-Kwon-Do, Guillermo Pérez and María del Rosario Espinoza won one gold medal each.
Artículo Producido por el Equipo Editorial Explorando México.
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