San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Central American Games kick off

The Central American Games arrived in Costa Rica Sunday in a literal blaze of glory when a stray firework set the roof of the National Stadium alight. Despite the scare, no one was injured and the games continued Monday as planned, featuring competitions in 26 different sports.

El Salvador’s Ramón Cruz claimed the first gold medal of the games on Tuesday by hoisting a 90-kilogram dumbbell in a weightlifting event. Costa Rica claimed its first gold later that day at the hands of judo fighter Julián Sancho.

“It’s a huge honor to win the first gold for Costa Rica,” the 17-year-old told the press following the event. “It is something that I will remember forever.”

Claiming the most Costa Rican gold medals is synchronized swimmer Violeta Mitinian, who earned her third in solo free swim on Wednesday night. Right on Mitinian’s tail is fencer Dirley Yepes. The current Central American fencing champion has laid claim to two golds and is the favorite in two more events.

Costa Rica also scored a gold medal in men’s team gymnastics and team equestrian, and speed skater Susan Piedra pulled out an amazing, first-place finish at the last second in the 15,000-meter elimination race. Costa Rica also has claimed silver and bronze medals in weightlifting, racquetball and table tennis.

While the country has seen some success in individual sports, several of the Costa Rican teams have struggled to avoid elimination in tournaments. The women’s softball team was eliminated in the first round of games, losing to Honduras, Panama and Nicaragua. The men’s pingpong doubles team also fell to Nicaragua on Wednesday night.

Costa Rica came out strong in the soccer events with the women’s team taking down Belize in a whopping 14-0 win Wednesday night. The men’s indoor soccer team also won their first game, beating El Salvador 4-0. Both the men’s and women’s handball teams lead their respective tournaments, which conclude Friday night.

All other sports will begin next week, and the games will conclude on March 17.

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