In a country the size of West Virginia, and a population of just over five million, it was very impressive that Costa Rica had a total of 14 athletes that were able to participate in the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympics. And, while no medals were won by the Ticos, we are proud of these guys and gals who marched behind the Costa Rica flag at the opening ceremony, and competed in the categories of Athletics, Cycling, Gymnastics, Judo, Surfing, Swimming, and Taekwondo.
The best result, and one that drew the biggest headlines in our daily newspapers, was the 4th place finish by our one and only BMX rider in the Olympics, Kenneth Tencio of Cartago. He qualified to participate in Tokyo 2020 by finishing #2 at the 2019 UCI Urban Cycling World Championships in Chengdu, China, and earned a 90.5 score for his work at the Olympics. Andrey Amador of Alajuela participated in Men’s road race and Maria Jos Vargas of San Jose did the Women’s road race. Amador finished #68 with a time of 6:21:46.
With about 800 miles of coastline, it’s no surprise that surfing is a major draw in Costa Rica. As a result, there are quite a few Tico professionals who travel the world competing. Three of these surfers qualified for the recent Tokyo 2020. With 40 total slots—20 women and 20 men—for all the countries, our athletes needed to rank in Olympic-sanctioned competitions ranging from the PanAmerican Games to the International Surfing Association World Surfing Games. Our representatives were Brisa Hennessy from Matapalo (currently living in Fiji)—the only Costa Rican on the World Surf League Championship Tour—and former national women’s surf champion Leilani McGonagle from Pavones. When the Portugual surfer tested COVID positive, two-time Costa Rica national surf champion Carlos Muñoz of Esterillos was called up to compete. Hennessy made it all the way to the quarterfinals, while McGonagle fell out in Round 2. It was most disappointing for Muñoz, who got the news he was in the Olympics while he was in Costa Rica. Despite Herculean efforts by the surfer and the Olympic Committee of Costa Rica, he did not arrive in Tokyo in time for his heat, so was marked as a loss.
A positive COVID-19 result also sidelined Chili’s athlete, so Costa Rica’s Nishy Lee Lindo filled in to compete as the first Tica taekwondo player in the Olympics. Valiantly, she lost to a Turkish competitor. She regularly places in the PanAmerican Games, so she is well worth watching.
While the category is Athletics, actual competitions are better known as Track and road events. San Jose’s Gerald Drummond did his heat of the Men’s 400 meter hurdles at 49:92, and his placement was at #7, not enough to pass to the Semifinal. Andrea Vargas, who qualified with a gold medal at the 2019 PanAmerican Games, ran the Women’s 100 meter hurdles and qualified to pass to the Semifinal, but there her #3 finish did not advance to the Final. Lastly, racewalker Noelia Vargas ended her Olympics participation at #21 in the Final, the one and only heat for this sport.
The top Costa Rican male and female swimmers in the FINA (International Olympic Committee sanctioned water sports administrator) were sent to represent this country. Arnold Herrera didn’t make it out of his first heat in the Men’s 200 meter breaststroke and it was the same result for Beatriz Padron in her Women’s 200 meter freestyle heat.
With the world-renowned talent hyped in the Gymnastic category, San Jose’s Luciana Alvardo was happy tp make it to the competition due to a 3rd place finish at the 2021 PanAmerican Games. She competed in the women’s individual all-around and apparatus event. After the vault, balance beam, double bar, and floor she made us proud with a #51 spot. Honestly, we were just thrilled to see her there competing against those amazing, popular gymnasts.
Ian Sancho Chinchila is Costa Rica’s top-ranked judoka and he attained an Olympic qualifying spot from the IJF World ranking this year. He made it two rounds at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the last putting him as one of the best 16 judokas in the world.
If you are living or planning to live in Costa Rica, you will want to follow the Olympic athletes as they continue to represent this country home and abroad.