Baseball with a Cuban flavour
Forty years ago, the Cuban athlete Omar Linares was born. Following in his father’s footsteps (he had been a baseball player in the 1960s), Omar started wielding the bat at an early age. He began alongside his brother Juan Carlos in Pinar del Rio, a region on the west coast known for its tobacco plantations. Quickly spotted by talent scouts, “El Niño” (the Kid) was soon playing in the Cuban National Series. At the age of 17, he joined the national baseball team at third base. In 1992, he set off for his first Olympic Games, in Barcelona. He again shone on the Olympic diamond at the 1996 Games in Atlanta and the 2000 Games in Sydney.
The Olympic adventure
Under the sun of the Catalan capital, Omar Linares and his 19 team-mates were there for their first Olympic experience. The brilliant Cuban team dominated all their adversaries, winning the gold medal by beating the courageous Chinese Taipei team with a score of 11-1. After this taste of victory, the Cubans and their key player Linares decided to continue in the same vein, with a repeat performance in Atlanta in 1996. Maintaining a clean sheet throughout the tournament, they went into the final and beat the great Japanese team with a score of 13-9. At the following Olympic Games in Sydney, Linares and his team reached the second step of the podium next to the USA, the 4-0 winners of the final. In Athens in 2004, the Cuban team had to go to the Games without their talented “Niño”, as in 2002 Omar Linares had turned professional and joined Japan’s Chunichi Dragons. In Greece, the players won their third gold medal, beating the Australian team 6-2. The Cuban team have already qualified, and will be defending their Olympic title at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
The Olympic career of baseball
Baseball is a team sport with controversial beginnings. Popular in the USA initially, in the 20th century it grew enormously in several Latin American and Asian countries. Present for the first time at the 1912 Games in Stockholm, it was only as a demonstration sport, as it was again in Berlin in 1936, Helsinki in 1952, Melbourne in 1956, Tokyo in 1964, Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988. It was finally made an Olympic sport by the IOC members in October 1986, at the 91st IOC Session in Lausanne. Open only to men, it made its official debut on the programme of the Games in Barcelona in 1992. Its female counterpart, softball, joined the Games at their next edition, in Atlanta. Professional players were accepted as of the 2000 Games in Sydney. Following the IOC decision at the 117th Session in Singapore in July 2005, baseball and softball will not be on the programme of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The two sports are, however, eligible for inclusion in the programme of the 2016 Games.
Made for the diamond
With a batting average of .444, in other words hits divided by the number of at bats, when the average is around .260, Omar Linares is regarded as one of the top Olympic batters. During his Olympic career, he also achieved 51 hits, 115 at bats and 14 home runs, performances which rank “El Niño” among the greatest names of his sport.
Feliz cumpleaños Omar!
This news content was configured by WebWire editorial staff. Linking is permitted.
News Release Distribution and Press Release Distribution Services Provided by WebWire.