The beauty of a small country’s genuine pride
Last summer, many people over the world rooted for their countries’s athletes in about 400 different competitions in 59 represented sports.
The bigger nations, as usual, focused on their daily ranking, how many medals they got each day, and whether this or that athlete did well or not.
Smaller countries, such as Ecuador, are just glad to participate. They are proud about their delegation during the traditional opening parade. They rejoyce about receiving olympic diplomas (usually for athletes within top 10).
Nationals from bigger countries are proud to hear the sound of their anthem after every win, of course, but they can not imagine the pride for those who are not used to hearing their anthem!
History of Ecuador in the Olympics
Ecuador started participating in the Olympic Games as soon as 1924, in Paris, as the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, was close friends with an Ecuadorian diplomat, whom he appointed at the International Olympic Comitee. Since 1968, Ecuador has participated in every summer edition. However, until 2020, the country only had won 1 golden medal and 1 silver medal in all its history. Both medals were brought by the same athlete, Jefferson Pérez, in the 20km men’s race walk.He participated in 5 Olympics, from 1992 to 2008. In 1996 in Atlanta, he entered the country’s history by winning the very first golden medal. It was on July 26th, and since then, the country instaured the National Day of Sports, celebrated every July 26th. In 2008, Jefferson Pérez won the country’s first silver medal in the very same sports.
Tokyo 2020: Ecuador making history!
Tokyo 2020 was a real game changer for Ecuador. The country’s representatives came full of hope and willing to give their best. If some sportsmen and women were among favorites in their discipline, they did offer the world a big surprise by winning in one single Olympic more than they had won in their whole history!
In the Olympic games…
Richard Carapaz, the country’s pride in cycling, started the dream by winning the gold medal in men’s cycling road race on the second day of competition. He was one of the favorites after an excellent season, and less than a week after climbing on the podium of the Tour de France (3rd place), he performed what has been described as a “spectacular race”. Afterwards, he commented “To my country, the truth is you have to believe, no?”.
On August 1st, the 23-year-old Neisi Dajomes became the very first woman to win an Olympic gold medal for Ecuador, in weightlifting – women’s 76kg. On the next day, her fellow weightlifter Tamara Salazar won the silver medal in women’s 87kg.
… and in the Paralympic games
So in a little more than a week, Ecuador more than doubled their all time number of medals. A few weeks later, the Paralympics brought the country another golden medal (Poleth Méndes in women’s shot put), and two bronze medals (Anais Méndes in women’s shot put and Kiara Rodriguez in long jump).
Celebrating sports and athletes in Ecuador
The Ecuadorian’s pride was and still is inmeasurable and beautiful to watch. Parties and celebrations were organized, among which official meetings with the President. The athletes have been rewarded with the government’s official bonus ($100k for gold, $80k for silver and $60k for bronze medalists), but also by the private sector: they were given new cars, scholarships from different universities.
But in every day life, the impact is also huge: many stores have pictures of the new national heroes (they even replace famous soccer/football players showcased in sporting goods stores!), they have become an example for teachers in social studies, and they gave local authorities the needed incentive to promote and fund the variety of sports, reminding the whole population that there are indeed other sports than soccer and cycling!
No doubt Ecuador and Ecuadorian athletes will be even more motivated to make Paris 2024 an even more exceptional Olympics year!