Cuba must at least offer a performance comparable to that seen at London 2012 if it is to remain among the top 20 Olympic countries at Rio 2016, according to vice-chair of the Cuban Sports and Recreation Institute (INDER), Jorge Polo.
The Caribbean island claimed a total of 14 medals in London, comprising of five golds, three silvers and six bronzes, to finish in 16th place.
Shooter Leuris Pupo claimed top honours in the men’s 25 metres rapid fire pistol, while there were also victories for judoka Idalys Ortiz in the women’s over 78 kilogram category and wrestler Mijaín López in the men’s Greco-Roman 120kg category.
Completing Cuba’s gold medal haul were boxers Roniel Iglesias and Robeisy Ramírez, winners in the men’s light welterweight and men’s flyweight divisions respectively.
Polo has now set the ambitious target to at least match the achievements in the British capital, according to the Havana Times.
A total of 43 Cuban athletes have qualified to take part at Rio 2016 to date, with the country hoping to put together a delegation of more than 100.
As things stand the team comprises of 21 track and field athletes, seven target shooters, six boxers, three rowers, two pentathletes, two Greco-Roman wrestlers, one canoeist and one gymnast, while the men’s volleyball team has also qualified.
Boxing has been Cuba’s most successful sport at the Olympic Games with 34 golds, 19 silvers and 14 bronzes, and is expected to garner the country its largest number of medals in Rio de Janeiro.
The nation re-claimed the world team boxing title for the first time in a decade at last year’s World Championships in Doha.
Their team was made up of the likes of three-time world champions Lázaro Álvarez and Julio César La Cruz, as well as Arlen Lopez, Yasnier Toledo and Yosbany Veitia, all of whom will be bidding for medals at Rio 2016.
Two-time Olympic wrestling champion and five-time world champion Mijaín López is also a gold medal contender, despite being unable to take the global crown at last year’s World Championships in Las Vegas.
Another wrestling hopeful is Ismael Borrero, winner of the under 59kg gold in Las Vegas, while Cuba’s most promising track and field athletes include discus-thrower Denia Caballero, pole-vaulter Yarisley Silva and triple jumper Pedro Pablo Pichardo.
Caballero and Silva both won gold medals at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Beijing last year, while Pichardo finished runner-up to the United States’ Christian Taylor.
Artistic gymnast Manrique Larduet, 19, could also be in contention for honours having won all-around silver and horizontal bar bronze at last year’s World Championships in Glasgow.
Cuba had seven world champions come the end of 2015, a year which saw them finish fourth at the Pan American Games in Toronto.
Their total Olympic medal haul stands at 209, made up of 72 golds, 67 silvers and 70 bronzes.
Daniel Etchells, inside the games
January 13, 2016