Guatemala wins its first ever Olympic medal

Erick Barrondo won silver in the 20-km race walk on Saturday. He's the first ever Guatemalan to medal in the Olympics.

Markus Schreiber/AP
Erick Barrondo of Guatemala reacts as he crosses the finish line of the men's 20-kilometer race walk, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, in London. Erick Barrondo placed second in the competition. In the background is winner Chen Ding of China.

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, centralamericanpolitics.blogspot.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

On Saturday, Erick Barrondo won silver in  the 20-kilometer race walk [Yes, race walking is an Olympic sport – Read this.]. Barrondo won the first Olympic medal for Guatemala, a country which has been participating in the Olympic Games since 1952 (must be another accomplishment from Arevalo and Arbenz to add to my class notes). Barrondo is from the Chiyuc aldea in San Cristobal, Verapaz.
 
On Friday, the New York Times ran a piece on why racewalking is so popular in Latin America.
 
Congratulations to Barrondo and to the people of Guatemala!

From the AFP:

Erick Barrondo won Guatemala's first ever medal in Olympic history with silver in the men's 20 kilometres walk on Saturday and hoped his win would inspire youngsters back home to forego violence for sport.

The 21-year-old, who finished behind China's Chen Ding, said that if this brought a reduction in his impoverished country's problems with gang violence it would be another victory. "It is well known that Guatemala has problems with guns and knives," said Barrondo.

"I hope that this medal inspires the kids at home to put down guns and knives and pick up a pair of trainers instead. If they do that, I will be the happiest guy in the world."

Barrondo's achievement prompted a phone call from Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina. "The president congratulated me on the first Olympic medal for the country. He told me that everyone had come out on the streets to celebrate the triumph."

Here's more on Guatemala's newest national hero. 

Mike Allison is an associate professor in the Political Science Department and a member of the Latin American and Women's Studies Department at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.  You can follow his Central American Politics blog here.

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