Latin America has yet to bring home a Winter Olympic Games medal. Could the February 12–28, 2010, games in Vancouver, Canada, be a historic turning point?
Although teams have yet to be officially announced, a good indicator of the region’s chances is the number of athletes who competed in the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. Some 30 athletes from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Venezuela qualified for the Turin games. Brazil and Argentina are fielding the most hopefuls in 2010, with 16 Brazilians and 17 Argentines vying for a slot in Vancouver. AQ looks at four of the region’s athletes who have already qualified—or are close to qualifying.
Cristian Simari Birkner (Argentina)
The 29-year-old from San Carlos de Bariloche is one of only three Argentine athletes to have secured an Olympic berth as of press time. Competing in his third Olympics, Birkner placed 23rd in the Men’s Combined event in Turin. His sisters are in the running as well. María Belén, 27, and Macarena, 26, have yet to qualify, but hope to ski in Vancouver.
Cynthia Jennifer Denzler (Colombia)
One of Colombia’s best prospects to qualify for the games, Giant Slalom skier Denzler, 25, secured first place at the Wales Championship last February, edging out her Swiss competitor, Laura Zurbriggen.
Isabel Clark (Brazil)
Rio de Janeiro native Clark first came in contact with both snow and snowboarding in 1994, when she was 17. She placed ninth in snowboarding at the 2006 Turin games—the best finish for a Brazilian athlete in Winter Olympics history.
Now 33, she is ranked 12th in the world as she prepares to head to Vancouver. Clark finished the 2008–2009 season 13th in the Snowboard Cross World Cup ranking.
Kevin Alves (Brazil)
Born in Toronto, Canada, to a Brazilian mother and Portuguese father, 17-year-old Alves began competing for Brazil in 2007. At the 2008 Four Continents Championships, he became the first male skater to represent Brazil. Alves went on to place 37th at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships—earning him the distinction of becoming the first male figure skater to compete for Brazil at the senior world level.