The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are in full swing following an entertaining opening ceremony on Friday in front of about 40,000 people in the stands at Fisht Olympic Stadium.
In all, eight Latin American countries will be participating at the Sochi Games, including Mexico, whose sole representative, Alpine skier Hubertus von Hohenlohe, could take home the title of best-dressed Olympian.
Even though von Hohenlohe – competing in his sixth Winter Olympics – isn’t expected to earn a medal at this year’s Games, there are several Latino athletes who could end up on the medal stand in Sochi.
Here’s a look at seven Latino medal contenders at this year’s Games, which will run through February 23:
Javier Fernández has come a long way since placing 14th at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, where he was the first man to compete for Spain in Olympic figure skating in half a century.
Since then, the 22-year-old Spanish figure skater has gone on to make a name for himself on the ice.
Fernandez, Spain’s flag bearer at Friday’s Opening Ceremony, is the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships bronze medalist and the 2013 and 2014 European Figure Skating champion.
He’ll be performing his short program to “Satan Takes a Holiday” by Larry Clinton; his long program will Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” and Earle Hagen’s “Harlem Nocturne.”
The winter of 2012 turned out to be a breakout season for Jacqueline Hernandez. The 21-year-old snowboarder won nearly all the Nor-Ams she entered—six out of eight. Hernandez quickly climbed the ranks of the World Cup circuit, ending with an impressive win at the final World Cup of the season in Valmalenco, Italy.
Even though she finished sixth at the 2013 World Cup, Hernandez hasn’t lost hope of winning an Olympic medal at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Queralt Castellet was thisclose to earning a medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. The 24-year-old Spanish snowboarder scored a 44.3 on her first qualifying run, third highest in the round. But Castellet suffered a concussionwhile practicing in the lead-up to the final and has to withdraw from the competition.
The third time could be the charm for Castellet, competing in her third Winter Games.
Since winning the gold medal at the 2013 FIS Junior World Championships, Lucas Eguibar has continued his medal-winning ways. The 19-year-old Spanish snowboarder earned his first trip to the world cup podium in Arosa, Switzerland on March 9, 2013, after placing third in the Snowboard cross. And Eguibar followed that up with a second place finish in the Snowboard cross at the World Cup in Vallnord-Arcalís, Andorra on January 12, 2014.
Following strong results in the world cup, Chile has pinned its hopes on Dominique Ohaco to bring home the country’s first-ever Winter Olympics medal. The 18-year-old freestyle skier, Chile’s flag bearer during Friday’s opening ceremony, will compete in the women’s slopestyle event, a new addition to the Olympic roster.
“I’m gonna try to compete the best I can, and give the best,” says Ohaco. “I’m not feeling any pressure.”
Eduardo Alvarez, the son of Cuban immigrants, is first Cuban-American male speed skater to make a U.S. Olympic team after a great performance at the 2014 Winter Olympic Trials.
The 24-year-old short track speed skater, who earned the nickname “Eddie the Jet” as a child, has had an impressive run during the 2013–14 ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup. He won a gold (at Kolomna) and a silver (at Seoul) in the 5000-meter relay, as well as a bronze (at Shanghai) in the 500 meters.
During the United States Olympic Trials in December 2013, Jonathan Garcia skated a personal best 34.85s in the 500-meter race to qualify for the. But the 27-year-old Latino speed skater was disqualified on a technicality.
“Even though I was disqualified, I still raced one of my best races ever so it was still good regardless of being disqualified,” Garcia told the Katy Times.
But Garcia didn’t let that disappointment affect him. The following day he earned a spot on the U.S. Winter Olympic team by finishing fourth in the 1000-meter event, claiming his first Olympic berth of his career.