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Colombia’s Top 12 Olympic Athletes You Can’t Miss!

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Updated on 02/19/2024

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In this blog, you’ll delve into the stories of some of Colombia’s most exceptional Olympic athletes, exploring their achievements, trajectories, and legacies, along with the rich history of Colombia in the Olympic Games.

Who Are Colombia’s Standout Olympic Athletes?

Caterine Ibargüen

Caterine Ibargüen was born on February 12 in Apartadó, Antioquia. Since childhood, she showed interest in athletics and practiced various disciplines.

Her specialty is the triple jump. She is the current champion in this discipline, having won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics with a jump of 15.67 meters.

  • Number of Olympic medals: 2 medals – 1 gold and 1 silver.

She also has other awards, such as:

  • Triple jump (Moscow 2013 and Beijing 2015).
  • World champion in long jump (London 2017).
  • Triple jump Pan American champion (Guadalajara 2011, Toronto 2015, and Lima 2019).
  • Four-time Diamond League triple jump champion (2013, 2015, and 2018).

Impact on Colombian athletics

Her career has been characterized by her consistency, evolution, and versatility, as she has managed to improve her records year after year.

Her impact on Colombian athletics has been enormous, motivating many girls and young people to engage in this sport, thereby elevating the prestige of national athletics.

Mariana Pajón

Mariana Pajón was born on October 10, 1991, in Medellín, Antioquia. She started practicing BMX (bicycle motocross) at the age of four and became the national champion at the age of nine.

She is the only Colombian who has won two Olympic gold medals, triumphing at the London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics in the BMX category.

  • Number of Olympic medals: 3 medals – 2 gold and 1 silver.

She also has awards such as:

  • BMX World Champion (Rotterdam 2014 and Medellín 2016).
  • Three-time Pan American BMX champion (Guadalajara 2011, Toronto 2015, and Lima 2019).
  • Multiple national and international BMX champion in different categories.

Contribution to Colombian sports

Mariana Pajón has brought the country’s name to the top of the Olympic podium, and her achievements have boosted the development and popularity of BMX in Colombia. Additionally, she has established the Mariana Pajón Foundation to strengthen sports, education, and health among underprivileged children.

Oscar Figueroa

Óscar Figueroa was born on November 27, 1983, in Zaragoza, Antioquia. He started weightlifting at the age of 13 and became the national youth champion at 15.

He is an athlete who has overcome numerous obstacles, including poverty, violence, injuries, and surgeries, to achieve his dreams.

He is the first Colombian to win an Olympic gold medal in weightlifting, lifting a total of 318 kilograms at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in the 62-kilogram category. He is also an Olympic silver medalist at the 2012 London Olympics.

  • Number of Olympic medals:  2 medals – 1 silver and 1 gold.

He also has other awards, such as:

  • Campeón panamericano de levantamiento de pesas en Guadalajara 2011.
  • Medallista mundial de levantamiento de pesas en París 2011.

Legacy in weightlifting

Óscar Figueroa is the first Colombian man to win an Olympic gold medal. He is one of the few Colombian athletes to break an Olympic record and the only one to be a medalist in both junior and senior world championships. 

Currently, he is an activist in sports and collaborates with the government to promote and boost sports for all young people.

María Isabel Urrutia

María Isabel Urrutia is a former Colombian athlete and politician, born in Candelaria, Valle del Cauca, on March 25, 1965. She began her career in shot put and later switched to weightlifting, her strength.

Her Olympic record of 275 kg in total was the best in her category until 2004, and she was the first woman to win two world titles in weightlifting in 1990 and 1994.

She won her first Olympic medal in Sydney in 2000, becoming the first Colombian woman to win an Olympic gold medal. She retired from sports in 2001 and dedicated herself to politics, serving as the Minister of Sports of Colombia between 2022 and 2023.

  • Number of Olympic medals: 1 gold medal.

She also has other titles, such as:

  • World Weightlifting Champion in 1990 and 1994.
  • Medalist at the South American Athletics Championship.
  • Silver medalist in the Canton, China competition in 1995.
  • Gold medalist at the World Games in 1997.

Rigoberto Urán

Rigoberto Urán is a Colombian cyclist who competes in the “road” discipline. He was born on January 26 in Urrao, Antioquia. He began cycling at the age of 14, thanks to his father.

He is currently one of Colombia’s and the world’s most successful cyclists, as well as one of the most beloved and respected in Colombia.

Rigoberto Urán won his first Olympic medal in London 2012, becoming the first Colombian cyclist to achieve an Olympic medal in this discipline.

  • Number of Olympic medals: 1 silver medal.

Other awards:

  • Stage winner in all three Grand Tours: Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a España.
  • Runner-up in the 2017 Tour de France.
  • Winner of stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia 2013 and runner-up in the Giro d’Italia 2014.
  • Winner of stage 17 in the Vuelta a España 2022.

Ingrit Valencia

Ingrit Valencia is a boxer born in Morales, Cauca, in 1988. She started her sports career at the age of 15 and specialized in the flyweight category (51 kg).

She is one of the leading figures in women’s boxing in Colombia, and her fighting style is characterized by speed, technique, and aggression, as demonstrated in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, where she won her first Olympic medal.

  • Number of Olympic medals: 1 bronze medal.

She also has other awards, such as:

  • Silver medalist at the Pan American Games in Lima 2019.
  • Silver medalist at the Women’s Boxing World Championship in Istanbul 2022.
  • Women’s Boxing World Championship in New Delhi 2023.

Yuberjen Ramírez

Yuberjen Ramírez is a Colombian boxer who has achieved great success internationally. Born in Turbo, Antioquia, on January 1, 1991, he started boxing at the age of 14 and specialized in the light flyweight category (49 kg).

He is part of the athletes who won medals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, securing Colombia’s first Olympic medal in this category.

  • Number of Olympic medals: 1 silver medal.

He also holds the following titles:

  • Bronze medal at the Men’s Boxing World Championship in Hamburg 2017.
  • Gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima in 2019.
  • Flag bearer at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games along with Caterine Ibargüen.

María Luisa Calle

María Luisa Calle is a Colombian cyclist born in Medellín on October 3, 1968. She began her sports career in mountain biking and later switched to track cycling, where she excelled in the individual pursuit category.

One of her most significant achievements is the bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics in the points race, marking the first Olympic medal for Colombia in women’s cycling.

  • Number of Olympic medals: 1 bronze medal.

She also has other recognitions, such as:

  • World Cycling Championship in Bordeaux, France, in 2006.
  • Gold medal at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara in 2011.

Yuri Alvear

Yuri Alvear is a Colombian judoka competing in the middleweight category (70 kg). Born on March 29, 1986, in Jamundí, Valle del Cauca, she started practicing judo at the age of 14, invited by a coach who saw her fight with a classmate.

Alvear has participated in four editions of the Olympic Games: Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016, and Tokyo 2020. In London and Rio, she won Olympic medals, becoming the first Colombian judoka to achieve two Olympic medals.

  • Number of Olympic medals: 2 bronze medals.

Alvear also has other sports awards, such as:

  • Three-time world champion in Rotterdam 2009, Rio de Janeiro 2013, and Chelyabinsk 2014.
  • Six-time Pan American champion between 2007 and 2018.
  • Medalist at the Pan American and South American Games.

Influence in judo

Currently, Yuri Alvear is one of the leading figures in women’s judo in Colombia and the world. She has contributed to the growth and promotion of this sport in the country, not only through her athletic career but also as the coach of Colombia’s national judo team.

Jackeline Rentería

Jackeline Rentería is a Colombian wrestler who competes in the freestyle category, in the 55 kg weight class. Born on February 23, 1986, in Cali, Valle del Cauca, she began practicing wrestling at the age of 11, following the example of her older brother, who was also a wrestler.

Similarly, Jackeline has participated in four editions of the Olympic Games: Beijing 2008 and London 2012, where she won her first two Olympic medals, followed by participation in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.

  • Number of Olympic medals: 2 bronze medals.

Jackeline also has other awards, such as:

  • World wrestling runner-up in Paris 2017.
  • Pan American champion in Frisco 2016.
  • Pan American runner-up in Rio de Janeiro 2007 and Santiago de Chile 2014.
  • Medalist at the Central American and Caribbean Games.
  • Medalist at the Wrestling Grand Prix.

Valentina Acosta Giraldo

Valentina Acosta Giraldo is a Colombian archer who competes in the recurve bow category. Born on April 19, 2000, in Pereira, Risaralda, she started practicing archery at the age of 14, inspired by the famous literary saga “The Hunger Games.”

She participated in her first Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020, reaching the round of 16 in both individual and mixed team events. 

Despite not winning Olympic medals, Valentina has achieved numerous awards, including:

  • Junior World Champion in Madrid 2019.
  • Pan American Champion in Monterrey 2021.
  • Pan American Runner-up in Lima 2019.
  • South American Runner-up in Asunción 2022.

Valentina is one of the youngest Colombian Olympic athletes, showcasing outstanding performance.

Daniel Restrepo García

Daniel Restrepo García is a Colombian diver who competes in the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events. Born on March 24, 2000, in Medellín, Antioquia, he started diving at the age of 10 after practicing swimming and gymnastics.

Alongside Valentina Acosta, he made his Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, being among the youngest Colombian athletes to compete in the Games. 

Daniel participated in the 3-meter springboard event, reaching the semifinals and securing the 17th position, just two spots away from the final.

However, Daniel has other achievements, including:

  • Junior World Champion in Kiev 2018.
  • Youth Olympic Champion in Buenos Aires 2018.
  • Pan American Champion in Santiago 2023.
  • Pan American Runner-up in Lima 2019.
  • World Masters Diving Champion.

History of Colombia in the Olympic Games

  • Colombia made its Olympic debut at Los Angeles 1932 with marathoner Jorge Perry Villate, the sole representative and the initiator of the creation of the Colombian Olympic Committee in 1934.
  • Throughout history, Colombia has participated in 20 editions of the Olympic Games, earning a total of 34 medals (5 gold, 13 silver, and 16 bronze) in various sports.
  • Colombia achieved its best performance at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics, winning 8 medals – 3 gold, 2 silver, and 3 bronze – and ranking 23rd in the overall medal tally.
  • Mariana Pajón, a BMX cyclist, is the most decorated Colombian athlete in the Olympic Games with 3 medals – 2 gold in London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016, and 1 silver in Tokyo 2020.

Olympic Sports in Colombia

  • The most popular Olympic sports in Colombia include athletics, weightlifting, cycling, boxing, taekwondo, and weightlifting, as they have yielded the most Olympic medals.
  • The Olympic Games have influenced Colombian culture and sports, generating increased interest and support from the population for athletes representing the country.

Colombian Athletes Who Have Won Medals in the Olympic Games – Complete List

  • Helmut Bellingrodt: Silver in shooting, Munich 1972, and Los Angeles 1984.
  • Alfonso Pérez: Bronze in boxing, Munich 1972.
  • Clemente Rojas: Bronze in boxing, Munich 1972.
  • Jorge Eliécer: Bronze in boxing, Seoul 1988.
  • Ximena Restrepo: Bronze in athletics, Barcelona 1992.
  • María Isabel Urrutia: Gold in weightlifting, Sydney 2000.
  • María Luisa Calle: Bronze in track cycling, Athens 2004.
  • Mabel Mosquera: Bronze in weightlifting, Athens 2004.
  • Diego Salazar: Silver in weightlifting, Beijing 2008.
  • Leidy Solís: Silver in weightlifting, Beijing 2008.
  • Jackeline Rentería: Bronze in wrestling, Beijing 2008, and London 2012.
  • Mariana Pajón: Gold in BMX, London 2012, and Rio 2016; Silver in BMX, Tokyo 2020.
  • Caterine Ibarguen: Silver in athletics, triple jump, London 2012; Gold in athletics, triple jump, Rio 2016.
  • Rigoberto Urán: Silver in road cycling, London 2012.
  • Óscar Figueroa: Silver in weightlifting, London 2012; Gold in weightlifting, Rio 2016.
  • Ubaldina Valoyes: Bronze in weightlifting, London 2012.
  • Yuri Alvear: Bronze in judo 70 kg, London 2012; Silver in judo, Rio de Janeiro 2016.
  • Carlos Oquendo: Bronze in BMX, London 2012.
  • Óscar Muñoz: Bronze in taekwondo, London 2012.
  • Luis Javier Mosquera: Bronze in weightlifting, Rio de Janeiro 2016; Silver in weightlifting, Tokyo 2020.
  • Ingrit Valencia: Bronze in boxing, Rio de Janeiro 2016.
  • Yuberjen Martínez: Silver in boxing, Rio de Janeiro 2016.
  • Carlos Ramírez: Bronze in BMX, Rio de Janeiro 2016, and Tokyo 2020.
  • Jeison López: Bronze in weightlifting, Rio de Janeiro 2016.
  • Sandra Arenas: Silver in athletics, Tokyo 2020.
  • Anthony Zambrano: Silver in athletics, Tokyo 2020.

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Frank

Frank

Hello! I'm Frank Spitzer, the founder and the heart behind Pelecanus, a specialized tour operator for Colombia travel. My journey in travel is vast and rich – I've explored over 60 countries, absorbing cultures, experiences, and stories along the way. Since 2017, I've been channeling this wealth of global experience into creating unforgettable travel experiences in Colombia.I'm recognized as a leading authority in Colombian tourism, with a deep-seated passion for sharing this beautiful country with the world. You can catch glimpses of my travel adventures and insights around Colombia on my YouTube channel. I'm also active on social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, where I share the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of Colombia.For professional networking, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Join me on this incredible journey, and let's explore the wonders of Colombia together!

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