Six stars of Colombian sports that opened the road to victory

That the Colombian sport is now recognized in the world is the fruit of an effort that required several years. We introduce some of the athletes who, long before Mariana Pajón and James Rodríguez, had the world’s eyes focusing on Colombia.

In the history of the Colombian sport it is difficult to forget feats such as the medal of the fellow paisa Ximena Restrepo at the Olympic Games in Barcelona or Lucho Herrera fought victory in the Vuelta a España. Long before the name of our national athletes occupied the front pages of the newspapers all over the world, these heroes achieved, with effort and dedication, some of the most memorable victories of the national sport.

Today we want the world to recognize those athletes who paved the way for Falcao, Catherine Ibargüen, Nairo Quintana, Mariana Pajón and all the representatives who each day continue to add victories and fill the country with pride.

1. Ximena Restrepo

This paisa woman made the 1992 Barcelona Olympics a memorable moment for the country thanks to the bronze medal obtained in the 400 m athletics race. Despite making history in these games, Ximena had already participated in the Olympics in Seoul in 1988. Throughout her career as an athlete she went on to win the Ibero-American Championships in Havana (1986), the South American Championships in Quito and Santiago de Chile, and the Junior World Championships in Greece.

2. Miguel “Happy” Lora

“Happy”, as he is popularly known, was the first Colombian to become bantamweight boxing champion in 1985 and went on to retain his title for three years. During the time of his reign he was considered as one of the best fighters in the world thanks to his reflexes, his ducking and weaving and the accuracy with which he hit his opponents. This Monteriano was chosen as Sportsman of the Year in Colombia exactly a year after his world title. His name is part of the history of Colombian boxing.

3. Juan Pablo Montoya

The Bogotan encouraged Colombians to get up at dawn to watch the Formula 1 and Formula Kart races in which he took part. His career in motorsports began in Formula 3000, which he was the winner of in 1997. But his moment of glory came in Formula Kart, where he was crowned a champion at age 24 becoming the youngest pilot to obtain the title and in which he was considered the best rookie in history. His participation in the Indianapolis 500, one of the most prestigious races, was also memorable for the Colombian fans, thanks to his victory in 2000. Going on to Formula 1 he obtained six major titles. In 2007 he reached NASCAR becoming the first Hispanic driver to win a race in the Nextel Cup category and he was also named rookie of the year.

4. Lucho Herrera

In the eighties Lucho Herrera, nicknamed “The Little Gardener”, wrote his own story in the European cycling. His greatest achievement and contribution to the history of Colombian sport was in 1987 when he won the Vuelta a España, and became the first Latin American to win this race. Like our current cyclists, Lucho Herrera is known as an excellent climber repeatedly crowned as the king of the mountain.

5. Cecilia “La Chechi” Baena

The Cartagenera, born in 1986, is considered the most successful skater of Colombia: Four-time world champion, 2 times runner-up and 35 gold medals in world championships are the best example of her enviable record. Her career in skating was memorable: she hit the world record in the 500 meters route race and, thanks to her performance, Colombia became renowned for its talented skaters.

6. Helmut Bellingrodt 

Colombia’s first Olympic medal was obtained by this Barranquillero sportsman of German descent, in the Munich Games, in 1972. In addition to obtaining silver in moving target, repeated the Olympic medal in Los Angeles, 1984. Bellingrodt and Jackeline Rentería (bronze in Beijing 2008 and London 2012) are the only Colombian sports people who have ever stood atop the podium at the Olympics in two different games.

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