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For Mexico, meager medal count makes this an Olympics to forget

Mexico's Johan Vasquez celebrates scoring during a soccer win over Japan at the Tokyo Olympics.
Mexico’s Johan Vasquez celebrates scoring during a win over Japan in the men’s soccer bronze-medal game. It was the fourth medal, all bronze, for Mexico this Olympics.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Mexico’s 161 Olympic athletes came to Tokyo two weeks ago with both hope and promise.

Barring any surprises over the next two days, they’ll be going home with just four medals, all bronze. U.S. swimmer Caeleb Dressel won more medals than that by himself. And all of his were gold.

It’s Mexico’s worst Olympic performance since 1996.

The most recent medal came Friday, when Mexico’s soccer team avenged a group-play loss to Japan with a dominant 3-1 victory in the bronze-medal game. In addition to soccer, medals went to Gabriel Agundez and Alejandra Orozco in synchronized diving; Aremi Fuentes in women’s weightlifting; and Alejandra Valencia and Luis Alvarez in mixed team archery.

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The Galaxy sent $50,000 in general allocation money to the Chicago Fire to acquire the No. 1 spot in the MLS waiver order and claimed Niko Hamalainen.

Gymnast Alexa Moreno didn’t win a medal, but she did make history by finishing fourth in the women’s vault, missing the podium by less than a tenth of a point. She also won over her Japanese hosts.

A fan of anime cartoons, she set several of her routines to anime songs, and Japanese carmaker Toyota responded by turning Moreno into an anime character in three commercials.

Mexico also finished fourth in softball, losing to Canada by a run in the bronze-medal game, while Jorge Orozco, the first Mexican to reach a final in shooting, missed bronze in the men’s trap by five points.

Mexicans finished fourth in three diving events as well. Another diver, Rommel Pacheco, announced his retirement after finishing sixth in the three-meter springboard. He’ll begin a new career as a politician next month.

Mexico's softball team lines up on the field at the Tokyo Olympics.
Mexico’s softball team stands on the field before their loss in the bronze-medal game to Canada on July 27.
(Koji Watanbe / Getty Images)

Then there was the embarrassing.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, members of the 15-woman softball team — 14 of whom were born in the U.S. — stuffed their Olympic team clothing into clear plastic bags with other garbage, making space in their suitcases for the quilts and comforters they took from their rooms in the Olympic village.

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“Perhaps for some of the fellow athletes, it means ‘nothing,’” Mexican boxer Esmeralda Falcon wrote on social media after posting pictures of the clothing the softball players left behind. “These uniforms for many others represent our years of work, dedication, love and passion. Too bad the Mexican softball team doesn’t see it that way.”

For the soccer team, the bronze was its second medal in three Olympics, following a gold in 2012. Only Brazil, which plays Spain in the gold-medal game Saturday, has done better over the last four Olympics.

The Mexican goals Friday came from Sebastián Córdova and Johan Vásquez in the first half and Alexis Vega early in the second. Córdova’s goal, on a penalty kick, was his fourth of the tournament.

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Japan’s lone goal came from Kaoru Mitoma in the 78th minute, long after the game had been decided. At the final whistle many of the Japanese players dropped to the turf in exhaustion and tears. Japan cruised through group play unbeaten but scored just a goal in three knockout-round games and will leave the tournament empty-handed.

For Mexican coach Jaime Lozano, the trip to Tokyo for the Olympics marked his first appearance at a major international event. He said it was eye-opening to share the spotlight with athletes in other sports.

“What I think I’ve understood from being here is just how hard it is to take home the gold,” he said. “I’m cognizant of the fact that many athletes recognize just how hard it is. I’m so proud of the athletes who have qualified to be here, especially those who are representing my country of Mexico.

“Making it to the Olympics is an incredible sacrifice.“

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Winning something once you get there, however, is another story.


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