Despaigne Claims Cuba’s Sole Taekwondo Medal at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

Robelis Despaigne will be heading home from the 2012 Olympic Games as his country’s sole taekwondo medalist.

The 24-year-old Cuban taekwondo practitioner won a bronze medal at the London Games on Saturday in the men’s heavyweight event after twice world champion Dada Modibo Keita of Mali pulled out of their medal bout with cruciate ligament damage.

Robelis Despaigne

It’s Cuba’s first men’s taekwondo medal since the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, when Ángel Matos won the gold in the men’s middleweight class.

In all, Cuba has four taekwondo medals, including silver medals won by Urbia Melendez at the 2000 Olympic Games and Yanelis Labrada at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

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.

Cal’s Silver at the London Games Makes Him Spain’s All-Time Olympic Medal Leader

London Olympics 2012

David Cal Figueroa put the paddle to the medal at the 2012 Olympic Games to secure his place in the annals of Spanish sports history.

David Cal

The 29-year-old Spanish sprint canoer had to settle for a silver medal in the men’s 1000-meter canoe (C1) single sprint at the London Games, after losing the oh-so-exhilarating race by less than a second to Germany’s Sebastian Brendel.

The race on Dorney Lake was thrilling to the very end, with Brendel catching up to his Spanish rival after Cal raced out to an early lead.

David Cal

Brendel’s winning time of 3 minutes, 47.176 seconds was a mere 0.877 ticks ahead of Cal’s.

With his latest medal-earning performance, the three-time Olympian—the silver medalist at the 2008 Olympic Games and gold medal winner at 2004 Olympic Games in Athens—becomes the Spanish athlete with the most Olympic medals of all time, with a total of five medals.

David Cal

Mark Oldershaw of Canada took the bronze, finishing 1.326 seconds behind the winning pace. Meanwhile, Hungary’s Attila Vajda, the reigning Olympic champion and the early odds-on favorite in London, failed to medal.

Sanchez Returns to (Golden) Form at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

“Age is nothing but a number” is more than a saying for Félix Sánchez… It’s a reality, following his gold medal performance at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Two weeks before his 35th birthday, the Dominican American track veteran—considered years past his prime—surprised many held off Michael Tinsley of the United States and pre-Olympics favorite Javier Culson of Puerto Rico to win the 400m hurdles final at the London Games. He’s now the oldest man to win the 400m hurdles Olympic Gold.

Félix Sánchez

Sánchez, the 400m hurdles gold medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, repeated American Angelo Taylor‘s feat of grabbing a second Olympic gold eight years after his first. Taylor, the defending Olympic champion in the event, ended in fifth place.

Sánchez dedicated his win to his late grandmother Lilian, who passed away the morning of the first race in defense of his title at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Félix Sánchez

Grief-stricken, Sánchez ran his preliminary race in Beijing that night in a disappointing 51.10 seconds, more than three seconds off his personal best and too slow for him to advance to the semifinals.

“It was a very difficult day for me,” he told reporters afterward. “My heart was anywhere but on the track.”

Félix Sánchez

Four years later, Sánchez’s mind was back on his grandmother. He ran with a photo of the two of them pinned beneath his race bib and “Abuela”  written on his yellow spikes.

And after those shoes carried him to victory , giving the Dominican Republic its first medal at the London Games, Sánchez pulled out that picture, placed it down on the track, knelt and tenderly kissed the image of the woman who raised him.

Félix Sánchez

“”I’ve been really emotional all week, thinking about her,” said Sánchez. “I just wanted to make her proud… The day she died in Beijing it broke my heart. That’s why I ran with the picture close to my heart.”

Sánchez’’s victory will undoubtedly rank as one of the most unlikely gold medal-winning efforts of this week’s track and field competition. After all, he’d won two world championships, an Olympic gold medal and 43 races in a row from 2001 to 2004, but he hadn’t been in his best form recently.

Félix Sánchez

But Sánchez showed he was in it to win it in the semifinals when he ran the fastest time in any of the heats. And he followed that up with that remarkable race in the final, staving off a hard-charging Tinsley over the final two hurdles to capture gold.

During the medal ceremony, Sanchez couldn’t contain his emotion on the medal stand, bawling uncontrollably as his country’s national anthem played and the Dominican Republic flag was raised.


Espinosa & Orozco Win a Silver in Women’s Synchronized Diving

London Olympics 2012

It’s almost a case of déjà vu as Mexico’s Paola Espinosa and Alejandra Orozco earn Mexico the country’s second silver medal in diving in two days, after Iván Garcia and Germán Sánchez claimed a similar diving silver on Monday.

Espinosa and her 15-year-old partner put on an impressive display to finish in second place in the Women’s Diving: Synchronized 10m Platform final at the 2012 Olympic Games on Tuesday, July 31—Espinosa’s 26thbirthday.

Paola Espinosa & Alejandra Orozco

China’s Chen Ruolin and Wang Hao—the favorites this year—took home the gold with 368.40 points. Espinosa and Orozco scored 343.32 points to earn the silver; and Canada’s Roseline Filion and Meaghan Benfeito won the bronze with 337.62 points.

With her medal-winning performance, Espinosa enters Mexico’s history books as the first woman to win medals at two Olympics. She earned a bronze medal in the same event at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing with her partner Tatiana Ortiz.

Paola Espinosa & Alejandra Orozco

“It’s a great gift”, said Espinosa of winning a second medal with her new partner Orozco, the youngest athlete to represent Mexico at the 2012 Olympic Games. “It was a great competition for us. We’re very happy with this result and the truth is that we did it very well, we dove very well. Our expectations today were to be on the medal podium and that’s how it was.”

At the start of the competition, the British duo of Sarah Barrow and Tonia Couch surprised the audience with their first two dives and remained behind the Chinese with Espinosa and Orozco ranked seventh.

Paola Espinosa & Alejandra Orozco
But in the third round the Mexican divers performed an excellent dive that gave them the maximum qualification (84.48 points) and moved them into second place.

“I realized (of the possibility to win the silver) from the first free dive, that we were already in second,” said Espinosa. “And I felt that we could [medal] because we‘ve trained very well, very strong. I believe Alejandra and I have made a great duo. We communicate very well.”

Paola Espinosa & Alejandra Orozco

The Mexican divers remained consistent in the last two dives and ended up with a solid point difference between them and the third place team. Following their fifth and final dive, Espinosa and Orozco hugged tightly knowing they’d done enough to medal.

“It was simply about going dive by dive, laboring as we have done for a long time,” said Orozco, who thanked her partner for the constant “support” and “motivation” she gave her.

Espinosa, competing in her third Olympics after her debut at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, hasn’t ruled out participating at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio of Janeiro.

“If God wants and my body and my mind, now that I am older, permit me, I will continue working for the next Games and be in the fight.”