These Latina athletes could not secure gold at Tokyo 2020, but now they're preparing to aim for the podium in Paris.

The Paris Olympics 2024 are expecting around 10,500 athletes from all around the world. And these are the first Games in history to achieve perfect parity between female and male athletes.

While Olympic qualifiers for some sports are still taking place during June, many Latinx competitors are already set to represent their countries, with Telemundo gearing up for its biggest Spanish-language coverage of the event so far. 

Before the kick-offs, the starting pistols, and the opening bells mark the beginning of the competition for every sport at the Olympics, we want to turn the spotlight on five Latina athletes that came close to winning gold in Tokyo 2020 (which actually took place in 2021, as you may or may not remember), and are now aiming for the highest achievement in Paris 2024.

Marileidy Paulino, Sprinter - Athletics (Dominican Republic)

She was a gifted handball player, but watching her running on the court, the then-sports minister of her country thought she would excel at athletics. The Afro-Latina athlete wouldn’t even consider it, but once she made the switch, her talent set her on a road to success. Running was also her way of earning money to help her family, as she was the fifth of six children who grew up in a single-parent household. Marileidy’s humble beginnings in athletics included running barefoot for some time.

After winning the silver medal in Tokyo 2020 for the 400 meter and 4 x 400 meters mixed relay events, Marileidy became the first Dominican woman to step onto the podium of the World Athletics Championships in the 2022 edition, alongside Fiordaliza Cofil, in the mixed 4 × 400 meters relay. And later, in the 2023 edition, she became the first Dominican woman to win gold in an individual event, the 400 meters event. She also earned medals in the 2023 Central American and Caribbean Games and the Pan American Games, and won events in the 2022 and 2023 Diamond League. There’s no doubt she’s going through an amazing moment in her career, and in Paris 2024, she may become the first Dominican woman to win an Olympic gold.

Sandra Lorena Arenas, Athletics (Colombia)

Sandra was also reluctant to become an athlete, something a priest advised her to do after she competed in a race while being an acolyte in a Catholic Church. Everything changed around 2009, when she was studying in Medellín and started attending the city’s Sports and Recreation Institute, Inder.

In Tokyo 2020, she was only 25 seconds short of winning the gold medal in the 20 kilometers walk event. After that, she struggled with different injuries (which, at one point, prevented her even from walking) and with the institutional and economic crisis of the Colombian Ministry of Sports, which caused delays in the economic support and grants conferred to many athletes in her country.

But despite all the obstacles, Sandra managed to come back to the sport, becoming the first individual Colombian athlete to qualify for Paris 2024 (with her second place in the 47th All Japan Race Walking championship, in February 2023), breaking her own national record (at the Australian and Oceania 20km Race Walking Championships, last February), and then qualifying for a second event in Paris, the marathon race walk mixed relay, with athlete Mateo Romero.

Idalys Ortiz, Judo (Cuba)

In the four Olympic Games, Idalys competed at, she never stepped down from the podium: she earned the bronze medal in Beijing, gold in London, and silver in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. And she earned five more medals in different Pan American Games, plus eight in the World Judo Championships, and fifteen in Pan American Judo Championships. She’s a judo legend who announced she’s retiring this year, and she’s ready for her last Olympic dance.

No matter the result Idalys receives in Paris, she will come out as the judoka who, in London 2012, ended the Asian streak in the women’s +78 kg Olympic event: before Idalys stepped in, only Japanese and Chinese judo athletes had won gold in that women’s competition.

Rayssa Leal, Skateboarding (Brazil)

At the age of 13, Rayssa won the silver medal at the Tokyo 2020’s women’s street skateboarding competition, becoming the youngest Brazilian ever to compete in the Olympic Games, and the youngest Olympic medalist in 85 years. She was also the Tokyo 2020 competitor who gained the most followers on Instagram, with 5.8 million new fans. However, that certainly hasn’t distracted her from increasing her medal record: since then, she obtained gold medals at the Pan American Games, the World Skate and Street League Skateboarding World Championships, and the Summer X Games. Her nickname (fadinha, or fairy), seems to suit her powers perfectly.

While leading the World Skateboarding Ranking in the women’s Street discipline, Rayssa Leal still trailblazing the way outside the course: she became the first Brazilian global ambassador for Louis Vuitton, her Nike SB Dunk model sold out in 20 minutes (which she found out about when she was back from school), and she took part in the launching of the “Floresta Olímpica do Brasil” project, which aims to reforest Amazônia. Today, she’s only 16, and Paris waits for her next achievement.

Agustina Albertario, Las Leonas, Field Hockey (Argentina)

Yes, the Argentina women’s national field hockey team has a very ambitious nickname (“the Lionesses”). But from the moment the team decided to add a lioness to their jersey, at Athens 2000, when they needed three important wins in order to reach the final, their tenacity and strength took them to places they had never been before: five Olympic medals (three of them silver and the other two bronze), two World Cup championships, four gold medals in Pan American Games, seven Champions Trophy wins, and six Pan American Cups.

These Latina athletes are on the brink of achieving their ultimate goal: an Olympic gold medal. Tokyo 2020 saw them losing the final match against the Netherlands for the second time (the other one was at London 2012), so they will go to Paris to end the drought, and maybe beat the European powerhouse. Could this be also the much-expected comeback to the great stages for Agustina Albertario? She was a key player for Las Leonas at Tokyo 2020 and during the 2022 World Championship, but she missed the latest Pan American Games because of an injury. Recently, she’s been absent from games after getting Covid and then dengue fever, although she’s now successfully recovering. Let’s hope she’s back and stronger than ever for Paris!

As the Paris Olympics 2024 approach, it will be held from July 26 through Aug 11, 2024 the world will be watching these extraordinary Latina athletes who have shown resilience, determination, and unparalleled skill. They are not just aiming for the podium; they are poised to make history. Paris 2024 promises to be an exciting chapter in their careers, and their stories will undoubtedly inspire countless others around the globe. 

Here’s to these Latina athletes and their quest for Olympic gold!

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