2016 was undoubtedly the most successful year in sports for Colombia. In 2017, successes were moderate, but there was still plenty going on. From World Cup football qualification to an apnea World Record, here’s the year’s top ten memorable moments in Colombian sports.
Cafeteros qualify for World Cup 2018 in Russia
For the second time in a row, Colombia are going to the World Cup finals. In June and July 2018 los cafeteros will don their yellow shirts in Russia. Colombia laid the foundation for qualification in March when they beat Ecuador in Quito. After that, three draws and a defeat in the last qualifiers was just enough to limp over the line and qualify for the World Cup. The 2014 quarter-finalists are in Pot 2 based on the current FIFA ranking. The draw to decide who their opponents will be will take place on December 1.
Atlético Nacional vs Deportivo Cali
One of the most memorable games of this year’s Liga Águila was the second leg of the final between Atlético Nacional and Deportivo Cali. In Cali’s Palmaseca stadium, the home side had completely outplayed Nacional and the 2-0 victory wasn’t flattering at all for Cali. The underdog were suddenly favourites, but the return leg saw a 180 degree change. Nacional were rampant. Inspired by Macnelly Torres they recorded a 5-1 victory, winning the title 5-3 on aggregate. It was the fifth title in the last ten seasons for the record champion.
Colombia had a bright first season in the World Series of Boxing. With Olympic silver medallist Yuberjen Martínez as the standout star, the Heroicos cruised through a group with Cuba Domadores, Caciques Venezuela and Argentina Condors. After that they beat Italy in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, the Cubans were the opponents again and despite a 3-2 home victory in Cartagena, the return in Havana saw a 5-0 loss to the Domadores, ending the great performance from the Heroicos. Martínez was also close to a maiden World Championship Boxing title, but in a repetition of the Olympic final, Hasanoy Dusmatov was again too strong.
Speed skater Pedro Causil is still in the running to become the first athlete from Colombia to appear in the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea next year. The 26-year-old ice skater from San Andrés is aiming to qualify for Pyeongchang for the 500 and 1000 metres speedskating. In the 2016/17 season Causil picked up his first World Cup points and he repeated that trick again this November in his quest for Olympic participation.
Éider Arévalo wins race walking title
One of the biggest shock successes for Colombia this year happened in London, where race walker Éider Arévalo claimed the victory in the 20km race walk at the Athletics World Championships in London. The 24-year-old wasn’t considered one of the favourites before the race but surprised the world with his gold medal.
BMX Olympic gold medallist Mariana Pajón had a year of mixed sporting success. In the post-Olympic season Pajón took some time off and started later than many of the other cyclists. That took its toll on her form, although she still won the bronze medal at the World Championships in the United States. Pajón did take the gold medal at the Bolivarian Games and announced that she will start competing in track cycling this year. On a personal note things are going well for Pajón. The twice Olympic champion announced she will get married in December this year to French BMX cyclist Vincent Pelluard.
Budget cuts for sports
On August 1 the Colombian government announced the budget for 2018. The world of sports exploded in outrage at the news of more than 60% of the budget being cut, but the minister specified that the distribution is different. In a video Olympic medallists Mariana Pajón, Yuberjen Martínez and Óscar Figueroa protested against the cuts. Head of Coldeportes, Clara Luz Roldán argued that the Olympic athletes won’t be affected in the cycle up to the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 but Caterine Ibargüen expressed to RCN “It is depressing. For example I get support from the government, but what do you think about a little girl here, they won’t notice her until she gets results.”
For Caterine Ibargüen, 2017 has been a year to quickly forget. The 33-year-old Olympic Champion in the triple jump discipline had been extremely dominant for the previous four years, only losing once over the almost 40 competitions in which she participated. This year was different though, the always-cheerful athlete from Apartadó ended up two centimetres short in a suspense final in the World Championships in London in August. Weeks after that, a disappointing performance in the final Diamond League meeting meant she failed to win her fifth Diamond League Series in a row.
Juan Sebastián Cabal wins Australian Open mixed doubles title
At the beginning of this year, tennis player Juan Sebastián Cabal won a grand slam title for the first time in his career and second time in Colombian history. The 31-year-old Cabal won the Australian Open mixed doubles crown together with Abigail Spears from the United States. Together with his regular doubles partner Robert Farah, he also made the Roland Garros semi-finals in which they were ousted by Michael Venus from New Zealand and Ryan Harrison from the United States.
Freediving Apnea World Record for Sofía Gómez Uribe
In freediving apnea, a somewhat unknown sport, Sofía Gómez Uribe set a world record. The 25-year-old athlete went to 84 metres in Bi-Fins Constant Weight at the Dominica Dive Fest. The athlete from Medellín, said in an interview with El Espectador that she is more afraid of cows than deep waters.