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Donovan Carrillo made history with his performance in Beijing not only for Mexico, but for all of Latin America. Photo: Getty Images
Donovan Carrillo made history with his performance in Beijing not only for Mexico, but for all of Latin America. Photo: Getty Images

Donovan Carrillo, the face of latinos in Beijing 2022

The Winter Olympic Games took place in China, and Latin America was out to make its mark.

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Every four years, athletes from around the world gather for the Winter Olympics, where snow and ice are the setting to compete and represent their countries. 

Those nations with ideal climate conditions and facilities to train for these sports are the superpowers. However, nations with less tradition in these sports, also dream of winning medals.

A prime example of this is Latin America. 

Many think they should not compete under the idea that if you haven’t won, you shouldn’t try, or if you don’t live in a certain country, you shouldn’t represent it. That being said, there are many Latinos that have won their place through official qualifications in what are often lonely efforts.

“Dreams come true,” the skater said after his historic performance

That is the case of Mexico’s Donovan Carrillo, who made history just by setting foot in Beijing. He is the first athlete in more than 30 years to represent Mexico in ice skating, and his performance showed the whole world that with dedication and discipline, anything is possible.

Carrillo is the first Latin American to qualify for the long program in ice skating at the Olympic Games, and the only Mexican in history to make it to the Winter Olympic finals. While he didn’t medal, Carrillo did make a great impression on fans with his score of 138.44. Experts now expect to see him again in 2026.

Donovan is only 22 years old and unlike his opponents, he does not train at an exclusive training complex with everything necessary to compete professionally. Instead, he trained at an ice rink in a mall, more than 124 miles away from his home in Guadalajara.

“Dreams come true,” the skater said after his historic performance to the rhythm of “Black Magic Woman” and “Shake it,” by Carlos Santana.

With it, Carrillo achieved the highest score of his career at 79.69, which was enough to earn a spot in the individual male finals. He also demonstrated that even though Latin Americans are still novices at the Winter Olympics, talent and skills are in abundance across the region. Investment is the key to tap into that pool.

Apart from Carrillo, 11 Latin American delegations took a total of 38 athletes to Beijing. None are favorites to medal, but they all hope to set personal bests and inspire others in their countries to reach for the world stage.

There are also a number of nationalized Europeans and Americans of Latino origin and children of Latinos living in other countries participating. 

In Beijing, the U.S. set the record of 14 nations among its delegation, breaking the previous record of 13 from four years ago in PyeongChang. The participation of Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador two years running is also of note.

Beyond Carrillo repping Latin America is Chile’s Yonathan Fernández, who is participating for a third consecutive Winter Olympics and is a pioneer in representing his country in cross-country skiing. 

Sarah Escobar is also the first woman from Ecuador to attend any Winter Olympics in giant slalom. The countries with most participants from Latin America in Beijing are Brazil with 10, Argentina, with six, Chile and México with four, and Colombia with three.

Another Latino, in this case the Colombian Carlos Quintana, was the protagonist of one of the most emotional moments of Beijing 2022, one of those moments that remind us that in sport, and especially in the Olympic Games, winning is not the goal. 

Quintana, who was competing in the 15-kilometer cross-country skiing event, managed to crown his dream of finishing, something that was recognized by the gold medal winner, Ilvo Niskanen of Finland, who surprised the Colombian at the finish line to congratulate him. That is what the sporting spirit of the Olympic Games is all about.

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