Team Preview: Puerto Rico

Note: Last minute changes are always possible

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated United States territory located in the Caribbean Sea. The territory made its Olympic debut in 1948 and has participated ever since. Historically Puerto Rico has won a total of eight medals, six of them being in boxing. Puerto Rico has yet to win its first gold medal. In 2012 Puerto Rico won two medals and despite both athletes competing in 2016 the territory is not favoured to medal though it will have its chances to cause an upset.

A large portion of the team will come in athletics, led by 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Javier Culson. Competing in his third Olympics Culson has more recently won silver at the 2015 Pan American Games in the men’s 400m hurdles. While he is not favoured to win a medal he could make an appearance in the final. Another athlete to watch in athletics is Jasmine Camacho-Quinn whom will compete in the women’s 100m hurdles. She recently ran a time that could see her in the finals. Returning athletes include 2012 Olympians Eric Alejandro (men’s 400m hurdles), Beverly Ramos (women’s marathon) and Wesley Vazquez (men’s 800m). The rest of the team includes Andres Arroyo (men’s 800m), William Barnes (men’s 110m hurdles), Luis Castro (men’s high jump), Grace Claxton (women’s 400m hurdles), Alysbeth Felix (women’s heptathlon), Celiangeli Morales (women’s 200m) Diamara Planell (women’s pole vault) and David Smith (men’s high jump).

Wrestling will be headlined by 2012 Olympic silver medalist Jaime Espinal. The 2015 Pan American Games bronze medalist will compete in the men’s freestyle -86kg. Joining him is fellow 2012 Olympian and 2015 Pan American bronze medalist Franklin Gomez whom will compete in the men’s freestyle -65kg.

While boxing was historically Puerto Rico’s strongest sport the nation will only be sending a single athlete to the games. 2012 Olympian Jayvier Cintron will compete in the men’s flyweight.

Puerto Rico will be making its Olympic debut in women’s volleyball after winning the 12th and final spot at an Olympic Qualification Tournament. Ranked 17th in the world the team will enter the tournament as one of the lower ranked teams. While the team has competed internationally at the Grand Prix and World Championship its best results have come from continental play including a bronze medal at the 2015 NORCECA Championship and fourth place at the 2015 Pan American Games.

In tennis Puerto Rico will be represented by 2014 Youth Olympian Monica Puig. Puig won the bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American Games and has had a decent start to the 2016 season where she reached the third road at the Australian and French Open.

Puerto Rico will compete in two disciplines in aquatics. Rafael Quintero will be the first male diver to compete for Puerto Rico since 1996. He reached the final of the men’s 10m platform at the 2016 World Cup and finished sixth. In swimming Vanessa Garcia will compete in her fourth Olympics in the women’s 50m freestyle. Joining her is Erik Risolvato whom will compete in the men’s 50m freestyle.

Puerto Rico will be making its Olympic debut in table tennis as the nation qualified two athletes at the Latin American qualifiers. With medals from the team event at the 2015 Pan American Games Adriana Diaz will compete in the women’s singles while Brian Afanador will compete in the men’s singles.

Another sport making its Olympic debut for Puerto Rico is triathlon. Manuel Huerta formally competed for the United States, even competing at the 2012 Olympics. Huerta has competed for Puerto Rico since 2013.

Lauren Billys will compete in the eventing event in equestrian, making their return to the sport since 2004. She and her horse, Castle Larchfield Purdy qualified through the Group D (Central and South America) rankings. While this will be her first Olympic games she has experience in multi-sport games as she has competed at the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games.

Puerto Rico will be represented by one athlete in taekwondo. 2015 Pan American Youth Champion Crystal Weekes will compete in the women’s +67kg event. She’s already competed at the 2014 Youth Olympics and 2015 Pan American Games.

Other sports Puerto Rico will compete in are judo where 2012 Olympian Melissa Mojica will compete in the women’s +78kg while Maria Perez will compete in women’s -70kg. In shooting Puerto Rico will be represented by Yarimar Mercado in the women’s 50m rifle, 3 positions and 10m air rifle. She is the 2015 Pan American Games bronze medalist. In cycling Brian Babilonia will compete in the men’s road race and in weightlifting 2012 Olympian Lely Burgos will compete in the women’s -48kg.

Overall 42 athletes will compete in 14 sports. This will be the largest delegation of athletes since the 2004 Olympics.

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