With the World Cup in full swing and countries all over the world cheering on their teams, we can’t help but feel a little left out here in Colombia. For the third World Cup in a row, Colombia has failed to qualify; it’s a bit of a head scratcher in a country where fútbol is so popular. But we must look for the silver lining, and that’s why I’m taking this opportunity to reminisce about a time when Colombia’s athletes were excelling and the international spotlight was on our fine city of Medellín: The South American Games.
I’m sure you didn’t know that such an event existed (and why would you, North American?) so let me fill you in. The South American Games (let’s call them SAGs) are South America’s version of the Olympics, and like the Olympics, they take place every four years in a different city. Participants include every country on the continent (but not French Guiana which I’ve learned is not a country; officially it’s a French state, kind of like Alaska) as well as some of the Caribbean island nations and Panama.
The sporting events are similar to the Summer Olympics thanks to the lack of snow in this part of the world, but with some super sweet exceptions. Unlike the Summer Olympics, the SAGs include some less prestigious (but still entertaining) sports such as table tennis, bowling, handball, squash, speed roller skating and my personal favorite, artistic roller skating.
We were very lucky because not only was Medellín the host city, but the majority of the events took place five-minutes away from our house. Even better, our new friends/guests Marlo and Laura (or MarLaura as I will refer to them) were staying with us for the first week of the two-week event and accompanying us to the games. And as if we couldn’t be luckier and things couldn’t get better, tickets to each sporting event were free-99 (psst. that means free.)
We watched Men’s Volleyball and wagered beers on the outcome (MarLaura won, thanks for nothing, Brazil!) We were spell-bound during Men’s Pole Vaulting (Brazil got their act together for this one and took the silver and gold.) We cheered on Colombia as it won every track event, including the Men’s 10,000m (25x around the track) in which Colombia nearly lapped the 2nd and 3rd place finishers. We also suffered through the rain to watch Men’s Diving (Colombia once again victorious) and Women’s Synchronized Diving.
The SAGs were a great success for Medellín, giving the city a chance to show off for the South American community. Colombia came out on top with the most gold medals (144 to Brazil’s 133) and the most medals overall (372 to Brazil’s 355.) But the most important thing is that we all win, thanks to this video of the gold medal winner of Men’s Artistic Roller Skating: