Cuban Baseball's Olympic Qualification Collapse Continues a Down Trend
For the next four Games, the island nation experienced a consistent level of high performance: 25 medals at Atlanta 1996, 29 at Sydney 2000, 27 at Athens 2004, and 30 at Beijing 2008. Those years, there was an admirable sense of Cuba being able to 'punch above its weight' in its success. Despite increasing isolation as a lone socialist state burdened by economic sanctions, its athletic programs remained a vibrant, vital area of showcase pride for the nation.
But the last two Olympics has seen its star power ebb. Cuba managed only 15 medals at London 2012 and 11 at Rio 2016. As well, after reaching second in the Pan American Games medal table in 2011, Cuba dropped to fourth in 2015 and sixth in 2019.
That women's volleyball team of the mid-to-late 1990s suffered a similar fall. After just missing the podium in fourth place at Beijing 2008, the team has failed to make an Olympics since. They placed 21st and 22nd in the last two World Championships, and came nowhere near Tokyo 2020 qualification after finishing sixth in the 2019 NORCECA Championship, with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico ahead and taking bragging rights for current Caribbean power.
Cuba's sport prowess has certainly diminished. Has the difficulty in maintaining a consistently strong sports development feeder system in its closed society finally taken a toll? There's a good opportunity for a socio-economic study in the question. In the meantime, this summer's Games quickly approach. Can Cuba again rise to consistent sporting heights?