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AQ Feature

Latin America at the Winter Olympics

Skiing in style: Julia Marino demonstrates slopestyle. Photo courtesy of Sergei Grits/AP.

Latin American and Caribbean countries may not be as well-known for their winter sports as Canada, Russia or the United States, but the region does have a storied tradition at the Winter Olympic Games.

Argentina, the first Latin American country to participate, sent a five-man bobsled team to the second-ever Winter Games in 1928. Chile debuted its skiing team at the 1948 Winter Games and has participated in nearly every Winter Olympics since.

But after nearly 90 years of competition, no country from the region has claimed a single medal. To be fair, the largest delegations coming from the region rarely reach ten.

The 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, saw the region’s largest delegation ever, with 40 athletes from 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries. And while none made it to the podium—Chilean skier Dominique Ohaco had the best showing, with a 13th place finish in slopestyle—the region’s athletes still made their mark.

Prince Hubertus Von Hohenlohe, a Mexican-born German pop singer and Alpine skier, got more coverage for his mariachi-themed race suit than his skiing. At age 55, he was the oldest athlete to compete in the 2014 Games, but failed to finish his slalom run after suffering a crash.

With 13 athletes, Brazil sent its largest delegation ever, while Paraguay was one of seven nations making their Winter Olympics debut. The country’s lone participant was 22-year-old Julia Marino, adopted by American parents, who decided to compete for her native Paraguay. And then there was Antonio Pardo, the first Venezuelan to compete in Alpine skiing, who had to create a national ski federation in order to compete.

The storied Jamaican bobsled team, made famous by the 1993 film Cool Runnings, returned to the Sochi Winter Games for the first time since 2002. The bobsled duo—veteran Winston Watts, 46, and first-timer Marvin Dixon, 31— made it to Sochi with help from crowdsourcing campaigns and financial support from Samsung.

Though the team finished in last place, the Jamaican duo embodied the quintessential underdog story that makes viewers tune in to the Winter Games. Overall, the motley crew of athletes representing the region proved that the Olympics aren’t all about the medals.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Winter Olympics, Julia Marino, Jamaica