June 16, 2024


Inspiring Healthy Living

Interesting Facts About Bolivia’s Sports

Did You Know…

Like Un Yong Kim (South Korea), Sheik Fahad Al-Sabah (Kuwait) and Joao Havelange (Brazil), José Gamarra Zorrilla was one of the best Olympic leaders in the Third World. He played a major role in promoting the values of sports in Bolivia and Latin America. José dedicated his life to fight against indifference to sports and the deplorable condition of the athletes in Bolivia. His country is one of the Third World`s poorest countries. Furthermore, Bolivia has had a record 194 attempted coups. However, under his leadership, several international congress and events were organized in La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. José was president of the Organizing Committee of the La Paz Bolivarian Games (1977) and for the South American Games in Bolivia (1978). As president of the Bolivian Olympic Committee (1970-1982), he led Bolivia to the best result ever in its history: 106 medals in the South American Games. He headed the Bolivian delegation at the Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany. Many South Americans consider José Gamarra Zorrilla as the greatest South American Olympic leader of the 20th century.

This country had great sportspersons: Mario Martinez (tennis), Alan Saunders (nordic skiing), Milton Coimbra (football), Maria Ortuno (basketball), Giovanna Morejon Irusta (athletics), Ramiro Benavides (tennis), Anthony Iglesias (diving), Johnny Pérez (athletics), Scott Sanchez Saunders (nordic skiing), Oswaldo Morejon (track and field), William Arencibia (taekwondo), Erwin Sánchez (football), Ricardo Ramos (nordic skiing), Guadalupe Yañez (basketball), Betty Saavedra (basketball), Juan Rodrigo Camacho (athletics), Marco Etcheverry (football), Katherine Moreno (swimming), Roberto Nielsen Reyes (equestrian) and Billy Farwing Aranoa (nordic skiing).

Bolivia sent 7 sportspeople to the Winter Olympic Games in 1988. The South American skiers were Manuel Aramayo, Guillermo Avila Paz, Jaime Bascon, Jorge Bejarano, Enrique Montaño, Pedro Tichaver and Luis Vizcarra.

Julia Iriarte is the greatest Bolivian athlete of all time. Why? She won 5 gold and 3 silver medals at the 1947 Bolivarian Games in Lima, Peru. She became the star of the Games. Her gold medals were in the 80m hurdles, discus throw, shot put, long jump and high jump. Her homecoming was a huge success . After she was invited by president Enrrique Hertzog to the Government Palace (Palacio Quemado). She also won five gold medals in the South American Athletics Championships in La Paz in 1948. Under her coach, George Voeg , she broke several national records during the 1940s. Unfortunately, she did not compete at the 1948 Olympic Games in Helsinki (Finland). She was born in Cochabamba, Bolivia on December 20, 1919 to Placido Iriarte and Clara Velasco.

Bolivia participated at the 1979 Spartakiade of the Nations of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

From 1980 to 1984, the Bolivian government destroyed the sport. The South American athletes were not allowed to compete in the Olympics in 1980. Many sportspeople who had trained for years for the Games felt great frustration. Among these athletes were: Johnny Pérez (track and field), Luis Dario Vasquez (fencing), Mary Rojas (athletics), Walter Quiroga (shooting), Linda Spents (track and field), Isidro Guarachi (boxing), Walter Quispe (boxing), Edgar Cueto (cycling), Jean Young Kim Song (judo) and Antonieta Arizaga (swimming). Ironically, the USSR -host Olympic nation- subsidized Third World’s Olympic teams (Tanzania -one of the Africa`s poorest countries- sent 41 sportspersons). For political reasons, Bolivia also did not participate in the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas (Venezuela). For the first time since 1971, athletes from Bolivia did not took part in a Pan American. Unlike athletes from Haiti, Nicaragua, Chad and Sierra Leone ,Bolivian athletes had problems to go to Olympics Games in 1984.

Johnny Perez took part in the 1978 South American Games in La Paz, Bolivia, winning three gold medals in athletics, in 1,500m, 5,000m and 3,000m steeplechase.

The La Paz Olympic Stadium is one of the most modern in Latin America and the Caribbean. Among the athletes who have competed in the Olympic Stadium are Romario de Souza Faria (soccer/ Brazil), Joao Carlos de Oliveira (athletics /Brazil), José Luis Chilavert (soccer /Paraguay), Tito Stenier (athletics /Argentina), Edith Noeding (track and field/ Peru) and Carlos Caetano Bledron Verri (soccer/ Brazil).

Giovanna Morejon Irusta finished 16th in the 20-kilometer walk at the 2003 World Athletics Championships in Paris, France.

Katherine Moreno was one of the youngest swimmers at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.

The Bolivian team won the silver medal at the South American Basketball Championship and qualified for the World Women’s Basketball Championship in 1978 in Seoul (South Korea). Bolivia qualified for a world tournament for the first time.The heroines were: Janeth Blanco Saavedra, Betty Saavedra Zaconeta, Daysy Chucatini Torrico, Liceo Rojas Arteaga, Norma Zambrano Siles, Elizabeth Navia Ledesma, Guadalupe Yañez Heredia, Tania Claros Vargas, Antonieta Gudmanson Torres, Judith Quiñones Miranda and Vania Claros de Justinino.

Bolivia sent only one athlete (Fernando Inchauste Montalvo/ kayak) to the Summer Olympics in 1960.

From 1971 to 1979, 500 Bolivian athletes participated in international tournaments and competitions.

Like Hortencia Maria de Fatima Marcari (Brazil) and Carol Turney (Canada), Guadalupe Yañez was one of the best basketball players in the 1979 Pan American Games in San Juan de Puerto Rico.

Erwin Sanchez was one of the most important football players in Bolivia in the 1990s.

From 1975 to 1977, more than 25 foreign coaches helped to train Bolivian sportspeople in preparation for the international competitions (Olympic Games, Bolivarian Games, Pan American Games and South American Games). The coaches were: Bornj Wangemann (athletics/ West Germany), Mike Lucero (basketball/ USA), Paul Gonzalez (basketball/ USA), Stanislav Golubkov (boxing/ USSR), Heriberto Diaz (cycling/ Mexico), Pedro Escobar (equestrian / Chile), Stanislav Spyra (fencing/ Poland), Walter Madel (fencing/ West Germany), Eduardo Virba (football/ West Germany), Dale Cutler (gymnastics/ USA), Donald Howorth (gymnastics/ USA), Pedro Ortega (gymnastics/ Mexico), Jasuhido Takasuka (judo/ Japan), Benigno Marquez (wrestling/ Venezuela), Karol Czarkoswki (weightlifting/ Poland), Wu Yu Yung (swimming/ Taiwan), Yadwiga Czarkoswka (swimming/ Poland), Adolfo Coronado (swimming/ Ecuador), Francis Conway (shooting/ USA), Nicolay Durnev (shooting/ USSR), Cselaw Gajdamovicz (volleyball/ Poland), Tien Heing Hisch (volleyball/ China), Chiu Chiao Chi (volleyball/ Taiwan) and Lin Chou Nou (volleyball/ China).