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Since 1945, the Dominican Republic has been building up its Olympic dreams. Thanks to the dedication of those who’ve strived to organize the national sport system, the harvest has begun: from the bronze medal of Pedro Julio Nolasco in Los Angeles 1984 to Félix Sánchez’s double gold in Athens 2004 and London 2012 and Luisito Pie’s bronze medal in Rio 2016.

Convinced that our youth needs role models and leaders who inspire them to become a better version of themselves, in 2009 INICIA created an investment program for high-performance athletes along with the Dominican Olympic Committee, which later became Creating Olympic Dreams (CRESO). Glories, produced by sports journalist Dionisio Soldevila and photographer Ricardo Piantini Hazoury, collects the feats of the Dominican men and women who have inspired us to finally see the podium as a place within our reach.

OUR DOMINICAN GLORIES

Track and field Félix Sánchez

After reaching the top spot in the Santo Domingo Pan American Games in 2003, the dream of Athens 2004 was up on his list. He took over the race from his first hurdle jump, and with a time of 47.68 the musical notes written by José Reyes were played for the first time on Olympic soil. In London 2012, three jumps away from the finish line, he realized that Javier Culson and Angelo Taylor were farther behind his calculations. He crumbled on the floor as he crossed the line, took out the photo of his grandmother he had hidden under his uniform, and kissed it.

Atletismo Félix Sánchez_

Boxing Félix Díaz

Díaz was such a small boy that the neighborhood bullies would use him as a human piñata. At age 10, tired of being such a vulnerable target, he stepped onto the Club Natalio Jiménez in Sabana Perdida for some boxing classes. He showed such dexterity in defending himself and hitting hard that his fists didn’t just speak back to the kids of La Javilla, but to everyone else around the world: in 2008, almost 25, he brought back a gold medal from the ring in Beijing.

Boxeo Félix Díaz

Taekwondo Gabriel Mercedes

Bayaguana’s Parque Central often sees many shoeshine boys fighting for the best spot to capture the largest amount of foot traffic. Circa 1991, a 12-year-old boy would literally kick his way through; it mattered a lot to him, as the six pesos he made in the morning, before going to school, helped feed a family of seven children. In 2008 that kid, now an adult, used those same kicks to fight his way through an Olympic silver medal.

Track and field Luguelín Santos

Although his sports career began as he ran sometimes with broken sneakers, other times barefoot and nearly always in a state of malnourishment, seeing Félix Sánchez’s Greek gold made Luguelín dream big. Minutes before his final race in London 2012, his childhood hero had achieved one of track and field’s most astounding comebacks. When it was his turn to cross the finish line, his spectacular 44.46 seconds gave the country a silver medal.

Taekwondo Luisito Pie

For the child of Haitian immigrants, born and raised in Bayaguana —“the Dominican boondocks,” as he calls it— , dreaming of an Olympic medal was an act of boldness. And yet, after winning the silver award in the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, that dream suddenly didn’t seem so far away. In fact, it came true the summer after: his bronze reward in Rio de Janeiro made him the sole Dominican medal winner of those games.

Boxing Pedro Julio Nolasco

In the Los Angeles 1984 games, the fighter from La Romana beat Yugoslavian athlete Ljubiša Simić, Uganda’s John Siryakibbe and Puerto Rico’s John John Molina. In the fight for bronze, Nolasco wasted no time and beat the Seoul out of South Korea’s Sung-Kil Moon in a quickly defined encounter. And there it was: the first Olympic medal for the Dominican Republic, who welcomed him home as a great sports hero.

Boxeo Pedro Julio Nolasco_

Track and field Alberto Torres De La Mota

In October of 1964, the La Vega-born athlete traveled to Tokyo to become the first and only Dominican until then to represent his nation in the Olympics —the country’s economic situation didn’t allow for a larger delegation. In his debut, he finished sixth on his first heat, which left him out of the next round of races… but still assured him a spot on the Dominican Sports Hall of Fame, where he was immortalized in 1979.

Weightlifting Yudelkis Contreras

Her reasons to lift weights in her local sports complex were simple: she wanted to get a curvier body and also wanted something to distract herself with after school. Well, life has its own funny way of writing punchlines: that skinny girl’s aesthetic concerns in 2001 later became a career that led her to several Pan American gold medals and would even lift her close to Olympic glory.

Halterofilia Yudelkis Contreras

Weightlifting Beatriz Pirón

In 2014, Beatriz brought back gold and silver from the Central American and Caribbean Games held in Veracruz. In Toronto’s 2015 Pan American Games, she gained a bronze medal thanks to a total lift of 175 kilograms. Then came two golden medals and a silver one at the 2016 Pan American Powerlifting Cup in Cartagena. And then, in Rio 2016 she came so, so close to making history: she finished fourth, barely a kilo away from the bronze medal.

Halterofilia Beatriz Pirón

Track and field Juana Arrendel

When she returned to the field in the Central American and Caribbean Games held in San Salvador in 2002, she rose to 1.97 meters, breaking the record established by Cuban long jumper Silvia Costa 16 years earlier. That same year she added another gold medal to her collection, with a 1.95-meter jump in San Antonio, Texas. And yet, the golden medal she cherished the most was the one she gave her own country at home, during the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo.

Atletismo Juana Arrendel

Weightlifting Wanda Rijo

During the 1998 Central American and Caribbean Games in Maracaibo, she became the first Dominican athlete to bring back three gold medals from that event. A year later, during the Winnipeg Pan American Games, she lifted 100 kilograms in the snatch and 120 in the clean jerk: her combined 220 kilograms gave the country its first Pan American gold medal for a female athlete.

Halterofilia Wanda Rijo

Gymnastics Yamilet Peña

In 2009 she took part in the first preparatory event for the next Olympic cycle, the Central American and Caribbean Games of Mayagüez. After beating the competition in the qualifying stage, the tiny gymnast made two spectacular leaps on her way to the final: a handspring with half twist and a full twist off, making it to the top of the scoreboard. Two days later, on the fight for the podium, all everyone could talk about was how the gold was hers to lose.

Gimnasia Yamilet Peña

Volleyball The Caribbean Queens

The Volleyball Palace at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center was packed to the brim. The entire country was following the action on both sides of that net: for a whole decade, no other sports event beat the ratings of the final game against Cuba in the 2003 Pan American Games. It was 25-16, 25-17, 14-25 and 26-28 until the last set ended on 15-13, favoring the Dominican players. That night, it became official: the Caribbean Queens hailed from Quisqueya.

reinas_del_caribe

Volleyball The new heirs

The new Caribbean Queens didn’t make it to Rio de Janeiro 2016, after losing their first five games at the pre-olympic event that took place in Japan that year. But they keep at it: a little while later they rose to the top of the World Grand Prix in Bulgaria and the Pan American Cup in Santo Domingo. Thanks to a productive structure that smoothly allows for generational substitutions, they gained their ticket back to the taraflex for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Voleibol Las herederas

Tennis Víctor Estrella

To Estrella, 2011 was a year of highs, as he won his first individual Challenger in Medellín, having beat Colombian player Alejandro Falla in the finals, and getting a bronze medal in the Pan American Games in Guadalajara. That feat gave the country the first and only Pan American medal in men’s tennis in its history.

Tenis Víctor Estrella

Boxing Yenebier Guillén

In 2008 she brought back a set of two golden medals from an equal number of Central American and Pan American competitions. Three years later, during the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, she clearly beat the former world champion, Brazilian boxer Roseli Feitosa. During the fight for the gold medal she fell behind Canadian fighter Mary Spencer, leaving her with a silver reward.

Boxeo Yenebier Guillén
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The Team

Ricardo Piantini Hazoury

Photographer and editorial director

Dionisio Soldevila

Sports journalist

Nathanael Pérez

Sports journalist

María De Moya

Doctor in Communications

José Chez Checo

History advisor

Koco Toribio

Illustrator

Xavier Batista

Illustrator

Sahira Fontana

Art director and designer

Tatiana Fernández Geara

Documentary filmmaker

Pablo Páez

Translator

Marie Benzo

Translator