Latin American Athletes to Watch at the 2016 Rio Olympics
Colombia's Caterine Ibarguen competes in the women's triple jump during the International Athletics Grand Prix at Athletics Stadium Pedro Grajales in Cali, Colombia, on June 25, 2016.LUIS ROBAYO / AFP - Getty Images
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The much anticipated Summer 2016 Olympics in Rio start on Friday, and Olympians have been training to compete on a global stage in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
All nations are sending a combination of both younger more "rookie" athletes and veterans. The fresh faces are looking to make an impact on the tournament, and the returning athletes aim to defend their titles and world records.
Here’s a list of athletes from some of our home countries we'll be watching at the Summer Olympic Games.
Pajón, the “Queen of BMX” was born and raised in Colombia. She won her first Olympic Gold Medal at the summer 2012 Olympics and is also a four-time BMX World Champion. She’s defended her World Champion title since 2014 and looks to do the same this summer in the Olympics.
López is a Cuban wrestler that has represented his island nation twice. Winning gold at both the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling, López looks to end his career with a third straight gold medal at this year’s 2016 Olympics in Rio.
María Guadalupe González is breaking barriers for Mexican women. She first competed as a boxer but due to knee injuries she left the sport and later had a career shift and started to compete in Racewalking. At her most recent tournament, she won a silver medal at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome 2016. Before that, she won gold at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and at the Pan American Race Walking Cup.
Known as Neymar, the Brazilian National Team captain had an incredible season this year with his club FC Barcelona. After sitting out this year’s La Copa America, Neymar will be rested and hungry to keep that Gold Medal in Brazil after losing in the finals to Mexico in the summer 2012 Olympics.
Limardo Gascón is an épée fencer from Venezuela. Limardo won a gold medal for his native country at the 2012 Summer Olympics in the individual épée competition. He is looking to defend his title this year in Rio and bring back a special award as he will be his country's flag bearer this year.
Ibargüen can jump out of her shoes. She competes in high jump, long jump and triple jump. Since she's started the Colombian has won two gold medals while participating in the IAAF World Championships, a silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, and two gold medals at the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games.
Fernando Gaviria Rendon is a Colombian professional road and track racing cyclist who is well known for his ability to pass oponentss while maintaining high speeds on his bicycle. His sprinting techniques grabbed the attention of the Cycling world when he beat former Tour de San Luis champion Mark Cavendish in two sprint finishes. His sister Juliana Gaviria will also be racing for team Colombia this summer.
Mayra Aguiar is a Brazilian judoka who began training for the sport when she was just a little girl. She has been training most of her life with her sports idols, most of whom are men. She has won many medals through the years but only took bronze at the last Summer Olympics in 2012 in London. Looking to win her first Olympic gold, Aguiar will come out with venom that will leave a sting.
Ortiz was the youngest Olympic medalist to receive a medal in the heavyweight Judoka category. At the age of 18 years old she took home the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. She won her first medal in 2007 at the Pan American Judo Championships. This summer she looks to take home her first Olympic gold medal.
Isaquias has been competing with his canoe in the sprint event since 2005. He won Brazilian Sportsman of the Year in 2015 where he shared the award with fellow teammates who represent Brazil. Isaquias was the first Brazilian to win the ICF Sprint World Championship and won 4 more gold medals afterwards. He is a two-time gold medalist at the Pan American Games and three-time gold medalist at the World Championships.
Darek Michael Wajda is currently an editorial intern with NBC Latino. Darek has also worked at CNBC and MSNBC as well as NECN and Telemundo Boston. He is a student at Northeastern University majoring in international affairs and political science. Darek is of Cuban-Polish ancestry and is bilingual and bicultural.