Uruguay’s small Olympic delegation, composed by 17 members, did not win medals in Rio 2016, but inspired sports fans with good individual results, particularly in athletics, where milestones were achieved for the country.
Being at the podium in Brazil was almost utopic for Uruguay, especially due to the fact that it did not participate in football, a sport in which the country has won various world and continental titles.
HOPE TOWARDS THE FUTURE
The most optimists placed their hopes on Pablo Cuevas, the Uruguayan tennis player, whose 19th position in the ranking made him the best qualified athlete in the South American country’s history in ATP.
However, 30 year old Cuevas was not at the top of his game and was eliminated in the second round by Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci.
"I dreamt of attaining glory, though I knew it would be difficult. The dream was over sooner than expected, even though I strived”, pointed out the tennis player, who acknowledged, “I could not reach a good level”.
Nevertheless, he noted that “what I felt and lived in these Olympic Games, being at the Village and competing for my country, was an unforgettable experience ".
Even though the fact that he won a bronze medal at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games made him a prospect, Emiliano Lasa had to wait until Rio to earn a place among the main athletes of the country.
Lasa reached a milestone for Uruguay by being sixth in the long jump’s Olympic final, the best performance in the history of athletics in all editions of the Olympic Games.
With a mark of 8,10 meters in the final, held at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, 26 year old Lasa, bronze medalist in the most recent Pan American Games, was the best Latin American athlete in the event.
"My greatest concern was to reach the final. If I did not do well, I didn’t know if I would be able to stay in Brazil. I am at ease with the result achieved. I will continue preparing myself”, the athlete said.
"It is a good moment and I am already thinking of further goals, such as the World Championships next year”, Lasa said, the man who undoubtedly gave hope to the Uruguayan people.
Interest was demonstrated by the high audience levels for the final on Saturday night, when State television, which broadcasted the Olympic Games, doubled the audience in each of its three private channels, which are usually the most watched.
Even the most famous Uruguayan athlete worldwide recognized Lasa.
Luis Suárez, Barcelona’s football forward, sent him a message stating “it gave us great pride to see you like this and as always, putting the country’s name at the highest level”.
"It is true that work and sacrifice are rewarded and I am sincerely very pleased. Enjoy the moment and don’t settle with this, you have to go on”, the highest goal scorer of the Spanish league pointed out.
Now, the athlete’s goal is to “place my mind in long term towards Tokyo 2020".
His participation was one of the best of Uruguay at Olympic level in this century, only surpassed by the silver medal in cycling won by Milton Wynants in Sydney 2000.
"Lasa is the star of Uruguayan sport today and he will be further supported ", announced the president of the Olympic Committee of Uruguay, Julio Cesar Maglione, who also heads the International Swimming Federation (FINA) and is President of the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO).
There were other achievements in Rio: Nicolas Cuestas attained the best result in history in marathon after his 40th place finish; he was the best South American athlete, with a time of 2:17.44, while Andres Zamora finished 50th, with a time of 2:18.36.
Both athletes qualified for the World Championship in London 2017.
"I felt very good throughout the whole race", said Cuestas, who was pleased “with the position achieved, due to the fact that I was one of the best South American athletes, but not so much with the time I made”.
On the other hand, Andres Silva participated in his fourth Games, in the 400 meters with hurdles event, achieving a historic mark and making the semifinals, with a time of 49:21.
There were outstanding performances in sailing as well.
17 year old Dolores Moreira was 25th in the general table of 37 boats in the Laser Radial event; she was the third best Latin American athlete in the competition.
The participation of rider Nestor Nielsen and his horse "Prince Royal Z de la Luz" was historic as well, advancing to the second phase and almost reaching the final competition.
Swimmer Inés Remersaro achieved her goal of lowering the national record in the 100 freestyle event by almost a second, leaving it in 57.85 seconds.
For Maglione, head of the National Olympic Committee, all of the Uruguayan athletes “performed within the foreseen parameters”.
"Emiliano Lasa’s achievement was extraordinary. In addition, he behaved spectacularly. Our athletes were actual ambassadors”, the sports director concluded. (By Gerardo Laborde/XINHUA/COURTESY).