Pajón Gives Colombia Its First Gold at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

Mariana Pajón could be called Colombia’s golden girl…

The 20-year-old Colombian cyclist won the women’s BMX competition on Friday at the 2012 Olympic Games, giving her country its first gold at the London Games.

Mariana Pajon

Pajón, a former world champion, was the leader of the pack from the get-go on the challenging course, crossing the line in 37.706 seconds after an impeccable run.

Pajon hit her stride at the right time after being hindered by a shoulder injury earlier this season.

“I’ve been trying to win this my whole life,” said Pajón,  her country’s flagbearer at the opening ceremony. “I just wanted go out of the gate and win it. It’s unbelievable.”

Mariana Pajon

Seconds after zooming past the finish line, Pajón blew kisses to the crowd as members of the Colombian team began celebrating. She then was cheered by a couple dozen Colombian fans packed into a small section of the stands.

Pajón credits her victory on the dangerous and technical course to the quick start coming out of the first corner ahead of her rivals. She had posted three consecutive wins in the semifinals earlier Friday.

“I have tried so hard for it, and I just did it,” said Pajón, who her first national title at the age of 5 and her first world title at 9. “I felt really strong, I had really good gates and that’s it. I really had fun on it. … I have to wake up tomorrow and realize what I have just won.”

Mariana Pajon

Sarah Walker of New Zealand claimed silver and Laura Smulders of the Netherlands took bronze.

Spain Claims Bronze in Synchronized Swimming at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

Russia and China may have placed higher than Spain’s synchronized swimming team… But las sirenas españolas proved to be the darlings of la piscina at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Spain claimed the bronze on Friday in the synchronized swimming team competition at the London Games, just missing out on repeating their silver-earning performance at the 2008 Olympic Games by less than a point.

Spain Synchronized Swimming Team

China earned the silver with a final score of 194.010, Spain claimed the bronze with a 193.12. The point difference? A mere 0.89 points. But that oh-so-close showing didn’t dampen Spain’s spirits.

“We were very happy to have the bronze. We didn’t expect to get silver,” said Spanish swimmer Thais Henríquez. “The routine went very well and we were very pleased to have achieved our objectives. What we wanted to do was to make the team shine.”

The Spanish definitely did shine brighter than the sun throughout the competition, especially during their free routine…

Spain Synchronized Swimming Team

Decked out in outrageous Cheresque costumes, the team shimmered in and out of the water in their silver mirrored suits and matching caps that resembled fish scales to perform an underwater-themed routine.

It took an hour for the nine swimmers to get into their suits and a special glue was used to adhere the suits and caps to their skin, according to Spain’s coach Elisabet Fernandez said. The swimmers even cut their hair to make their costumes work.

“We were shocked when the Spanish team cut their hair, but they did everything they could for the victory,” said Natalia Ishchenko of Russia, who took home the gold, as expected, with a final score of 197.030.

Spain Synchronized Swimming Team

Spain’s two biggest moves involved one swimmer diving over the top of another who formed a bridge with her back fully arched out of the water — supported by four swimmers — and a swimmer who appeared to be walking on water as the others held her up from underneath. The team imitated dolphins, sharks and waves during the ocean creatures-themed routine that earned 96.920.

Spain will leave the London Games with two medals in synchronized swimming, including Andrea Fuentes Fache and Ona Carbonell Ballestero’s silver in the duet competition.

Spain Synchronized Swimming Team

Along with Henríquez, Fuentes and Carbonell, this year’s team consists of Clara Basiana, Alba Cabello, Margalida Crespí, Henríquez, Paula Klamburg, Irene Montrucchio and Laia Pons.

de la Fuente & Calabrese Sail Their Way to Bronze at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

Juan de la Fuente and Lucas Calabrese are sailed their way to the medal podium at the 2012 Olympic Games

Following the postponement of competition on Thursday due to a lack of wind, the 35-year-old and 25-year-old Argentine sailors returned to the high seas on Friday for the medal (final) race in the men’s 470 class sailing competition at the London Games, finishing in third place and earning them 6 points.

Juan de la Fuente & Lucas Calabrese

That performance, combined with their results in the previous 10 races, earned de la Fuente and Calabrese the bronze with a grand total of 87 points, 11 points less than Italy’s Gabrio Zandona and Pietro Zucchetti.

Australia’s Matthew Belcher and Malcom Page claimed the gold, while Great Britain’s Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell came away with the silver.

Belcher and Page, three-time world champions, were the pre-event favorites.

The gold-medal race, which counted for double points, was held on the spectator-friendly, shore-based Nothe course.

Juan de la Fuente & Lucas Calabrese

It’s de la Fuentes second sailing bronze, after coming in third in the same event at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, alongside Javier Conte.

“I knew from the beginning that we would pull out a medal,” provlaimed de la Fuente about his second time earning bronze. “With Lucas’ talent and if we refined some things we needed to refine, we would take a medal. This is more expected than the other.”

It’s Calabrese first medal in his first Olympics. And de la Fuente believes he’ll claim more in the future.

“He’s the most talented helmsman we have and he has learned a lot in the last three years, as well as being a cool-headed guy mentally, very strong physically and a very serious worker,” said de la Fuente.

Suárez Claims Second Straight Decathlon Bronze at London Games

London Olympics 2012

He may not have claimed the title of “world’s greatest athlete” at the 2012 Olympic Games… But Leonel Suárez could be called the most consistent.

Following two non-stop days and 10 track and field events, the 24-year-old Cuban decathlete came away with his second consecutive Olympic bronze medal in the decathlon at the London Games.

Leonel Suarez

Suárez didn’t look like he’d repeat his bronze medal performance at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing at the beginning of the competition, ranking in 26th place after the first event, the 100m dash.

By the end of the first day of competition on Wednesday—after the 100m dash, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400m run—Suárez had moved up to sixth, only 121 points from third place.

Leonel Suarez

Suárez returned to Olympic Stadium on Thursday ready to move up the standings. Instead, he found himself maintaining the status quo after competing in the 110m hurdles, discuss throw and pole vault.

But that all changed in the ninth event of the competition, when Suárez claimed a new Olympic best in the javelin discipline of the decathlon with a launch of 76.94 meters on his first of three attempts, smashing his own record of 73.98m from Beijing. His performance in the javelin portion gave him an extra 200 points over almost everyone else in the competition and moved him into third place with only the 1,500m race left.

Leonel Suarez

It was the “dagger in the heart,” according to the coach of Canada’s Damian Warner, who had been in prime position to medal until that fateful throw.

Suárez finished the 1,500m race with the fifth best time of 4:30.08, enough to secure his spot on the medal podium with a final score of 8523.

Leonel Suarez

World-record holder Ashton Eaton of the United States won the gold medal with a score of 8,869, while his compatriot Trey Hardee was second with 8,671.

Rentería Becomes Colombia’s Most Decorated Female Olympian

London Olympics 2012

Jackeline Rentería Castillo has a matching set of medals following her performance at the 2012 Olympic Games

The 26-year-old Colombian wrestler claimed the bronze medal in women’s wrestling on Thursday in the freestyle (55kg) category by defeating Ukraine’s Tatyana Lazareva.

Jackeline Rentería

Rentería, who failed to make it to the event’s final round after losing a tight match to Canada’s Tonya Lynn Verbeek, had to put up a serious fight to beat Lazareva.

When the final buzzer sounded, dozens of her compatriots cheered in the stands while Rentería ‘s coach jumped onto the canvas to embrace her and offer her a Colombian flag, which she proudly wrapped around herself.

Jackeline Rentería

“In the first place, I want to give infinite thanks to God,” said Rentería . “He promised me a long time ago that he was going to give me titles and this year he has given them to me. And here I am, thanks to him, celebrating this medal.”

Rentería could be experiencing a case of déjà vu… She won a bronze medal in the same category at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Jackeline Rentería

By repeating the feat at the London Games, she ties sport shooter Helmut Bellingrodt as the most decorated Colombian Olympians with two medals each.

“It’s a joy for me to be the first woman to do it and I also hope to be the first to get three,” said Rentería. “The road goes on and I’m already looking to Rio de Janeiro [the site of the 2016 Olympic Games].”

Rego & Cerutti Fall Short of Beach Volleyball Gold at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti’s experience at the 2012 Olympic Games has a silver lining…

The 39-year-old and 25-year-old Brazilian beach volleyball players had to settle for silver after losing a close match to Germany’s Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann in the men’s beach volleyball final on Thursday at the London Games.

Emanuel Rego & Alison Cerutti

In a match that could’ve gone either way, Rego and Cerutti—the reigning world champions and pre-tournament favorites to win gold—lost the oh-so-close first set 21-23. But they stormed back to win the second set 21-16 and send the match into the deciding third set.

The deciding set was full of suspense with the teams staying level until the consistent Germans forced the Brazilian duo into an uncharacteristic string of errors. Brink and Reckermann went up 14-11, giving them three match points, but the Brazilians saved them all.

Emanuel Rego & Alison Cerutti

Then the Germans went ahead again to 15-14, and the game ended on a sour note when the referee called a Brazilian spike out on the fourth match point. The Brazilian team contested the call to no avail.

“I’m very happy with this final because it was a great battle. Both teams gave everything to win the gold medal and right now I’m very satisfied because both teams deserved the gold medal,” said Riego, adding that he’d seen a replay of the match point and now accepted that the ball was out.

Emanuel Rego & Alison Cerutti

“(I’m going to) enjoy the silver medal because it’s not easy to be in the top in beach volleyball. You saw a lot of good teams passing by in these Games and only three have medals. I’m very satisfied that I have one of them,” added Riego, a five-time Olympian who had won gold in 2004 and bronze in 2008 with his previous teammate Ricardo Santos.

It’s Brazil’s second beach volleyball medal at the London Games, after Larissa França and Juliana Silva beat China’s Xue Chen and Zhang Xi on Wednesday to win the bronze on the women’s side of the tournament.

Villa & The U.S. Women’s Water Polo Team Finally Strike (Olympic) Gold

London Olympics 2012

The fourth time’s the charm for Brenda Villa, who finally has that coveted Olympic gold medal…

Competing in the final game of her career, the 32-year-old Mexican American water polo star helped lead the American women’s water polo team to an 8-5 win over Spain at the 2012 Olympic Games to claim its first gold medal.

Brenda Villa

”I am speechless. It still hasn’t sunk in,” said Villa, the team captain. ”I can’t describe it. It’s the end of a journey, and I got my fairy-tale ending.”

Villa scored one goal in the victory over Spain at the London Games, capping off a career that already includes two silver medals and one bronze.

The U.S. started the game off slow, scoring one goal late in the first quarter off a Maggie Steffens shot, tying the game at one apiece.

Steffens helped put the Americans ahead for good after scoring two goals and an assist in the second quarter.

US Women's Water Polo Team

The U.S. went into halftime with a 5-2 lead; and coming out of the break they didn’t relent.

Just over a minute into the third, Steffens scored once again and Villa followed up with her lone goal of the game.

Up 8-2 in the fourth quarter with a little over five minutes remaining, Spain tried to mount a comeback, scoring three unanswered goals.

But it was too little, too late and as the clock expired the American players and coaches jumped into the pool to celebrate the team’s historic victory.

Brenda Villa

On its journey to the gold medal the U.S. squad went undefeated. A tie with Spain in the preliminary round was its only blemish.

It’s the country’s first Olympic water polo title since 1904, when they won the men’s event.

Unda Claims a Wrestling Bronze at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

“If you don’t succeed, try, try again” must be Maider Unda’s motto at the 2012 Olympic Games

The 35-year-old Spanish freestyle wrestler claimed her first bronze medal in her second Olympic attempt at the London Games.

Maider Unda

Following a disappointing loss to her Olympic nemesis — Bulgaria’s Stanka Zlateva — in the semifinals, Unda beat Vasilisa Marzalyuk of Belarus 3-0 in the bronze medal match in the women’s freestyle wrestling 72kg category on Thursday to claim her place on the medal podium.

Maider Unda

Unda faced a similar situation back at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing — with a different outcome.

She lost to Zlateva in the quarterfinals, but won her repechage match against Canada’s Ohenewa Akuffo to compete for the bronze. But in that instance, Unda lost to Poland’s Agnieszka Wieszczek to leave Beijing without a medal.

González Claims Taekwondo Gold at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

Joel González Bonilla is Spain’s golden boy of taekwondo…

The 22-year-old Spanish martial artist beat South Korea’s Lee Dae-Hoon at the 2012 Olympic Games on Wednesday to claim the gold medal in the men’s under-58kg taekwondo final. It’s his first-ever Olympic title.

Joel González

González, the reigning world champion, beat Lee—a world champion who’d moved down from the non-Olympic under-63kg category to compete at the London Games—in an action-packed final.

Even though Lee was on the attack more often in the match, González managed to block most of Lee’s kicks while productively counterattacking with head shots.

Joel González

González struck first in the opening round, connecting with a three-point head kick to open up a 5-2 lead. The kick wasn’t originally scored but the Spaniard questioned the referee’s decision and was awarded the score after a video review.

“I thought it was clear that I touched him so I asked my coach to challenge it. It was then clear, they gave it to me and of course it was important to gain that advantage,” said “It goes without saying that it was very important and the three points meant I had a big advantage.” he said.

Joel González

Lee closed the gap with two unanswered points until a flurry of late kicks in the second round saw González extend his lead to 8-4.

In the final round, a brutal axe-kick that connected with the Korean’s mouth and sent him crashing to the canvas proved to be the final nail in the Lee’s coffin.

Lee’s camp made a hopeful challenge, claiming a three-point head kick for him, but that was rejected and his lingering hopes of victory died.

González did get a scare by Sweden’s Uno Sanli (7-6) and Australia’s Safwan Khalil (5-3) in his first two rounds but easily overcame Colombia’s Oscar Munoz 13-4 in the semifinals.

Yagüe Claims a Silver in Women’s Taekwondo at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

She couldn’t take down the defending champion, but Brigitte Yagüe Enrique can still call herself an Olympic medalist after a strong showing at the London Games

Brigitte Yagüe Enrique

The 31-year-old Spanish taekwondo practitioner had to settle for a silver at the 2012 Olympic Games, after losing to China’s Wu Jingyu on Wednesday in the flyweight (49-kilogram) division in women’s taekwondo.

The top-ranked Wu, who won the gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, defeated Yagüe 8-1 in a fast-paced final that saw Wu almost always attacking and using her flexibility to nail Yagüe with repeated close-range kicks.

Brigitte Yagüe Enrique

Yagüe, like the rest of the competitors who had to face Wu this week, never really had a chance in the match. In top form, Wu won two previous matches so decisively they were ended early after she racked up leads considered too big to close.

“She’s become much stronger since Beijing,” said Yagüe. “It was difficult to try to predict where she might be kicking us.”

Brigitte Yagüe Enrique

But Yagüe still has plenty of reason to smile… After all, she’s earned her first Olympic medal after a disappointing performance at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where she lost in the first round 5-9 to Yaowapa Boorapolchai of Thailand. She missed the 2008 Olympic Games due to an injury.

The bronze medals went to Thailand’s Chanatip Sonkham and Croatia’s Lucija Zaninovic.