Olympics: Dominicans to watch in London

By Dialogo
July 18, 2012

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – The Dominican Republic won two medals in the 2008 Beijing Games but will be looking for more in London.

Yuderqui Contreras, San Pedro de Macorís, weight lifting: Contreras, 26, won gold at the 2010 Central America and Caribbean Games in weight lifting. Competing in the 53-kilogram (116-pounds) class, Contreras set a personal best by lifting a total of 211 kilograms (465 pounds). She finished fifth at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The event includes the snatch and the clean and jerk. In London, Contreras will again compete in the 53-kilogram class.

María García, La Vega, judo: García, 24, burst on the international judo scene when she won bronze at the 2006 World Youth Championships. After winning medals in the Pan American Games and other international events, she qualified for the 2008 Beijing Games, where she lost in the round of 16. She will compete in the 52-kilogram (114-pound) class.

Dorian McMenemy, Northborough, Mass., USA, swimming: Born in the United States to a Dominican mother, McMenemy chose to swim internationally for her mother’s home country. At the age of 15, she’s the first Dominican female swimmer ever to make the Olympics, qualifying for the London Games after placing 46th in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2011 FINA World Championships in China. McMenemy, who just completed her freshman year of high school, will be among a field of 42 competing in the 100-meter butterfly.

Gabriel Mercedes, Monte Plata, taekwondo: In the 2008 Beijing Games, Mercedes tied Guillermo Pérez of Mexico in the taekwondo finals of the competitive 58-kilogram (127 pounds) class. Judges awarded Pérez the gold. Mercedes, 31, took the silver. He has been atop his game since earning the gold at the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico. Mercedes will again be competing in the highly competitive 58-kilogram weight class in London.

Félix Sánchez, New York, USA, running: Sánchez, born in New York to Dominican parents, could have competed for the United States. But in 1999 he opted to represent his parents’ home country, which was a blessing for the Dominican Republic. Sánchez, nicknamed “Super Félix,” won the country’s first Olympic gold at the 2004 Athens Games by placing first in the 400-meter hurdles. Now 34, Sánchez, who broke the Pan American Games record in the event in 2003, is looking to regain his former glory.

Luguelín Santos, Santo Domingo, running: If Sánchez has been the best Dominican runner of the past decade, Santos is likely to be this decade’s star. In 2010, he won gold at the Summer Youth Olympics in the 400-meter dash and the 4x400-meter relay. Now 18, and with a Puma sponsorship recently inked, Santos looks to London, where he seeks his first Olympic gold in the 400.