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By Raimundo Urrechaga

HAVANA, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Rio Olympic Games are officially in the history books, with pulsing competitions having gathered the attention of millions around the world.

The Cuban people showed special enthusiasm for these Summer Games, equally impressed at the records and competitions being set as enthused for the participation of each Cuban athlete.

""We stayed at home and enjoyed every second of the Olympics. It was a true show from the beginning until its wonderful closing ceremony,"" Carlos San Martin, a retired Cuban told Xinhua.

San Martin, as many Cubans, is largely satisfied with the results of the Cuban team in Rio (5 gold, 2 silver and 4 bronze), that allowed the island to finish in 18th place in the medal tally.

""Our athletes met the goal of being among the top 20 in the world. But the fans know they could have obtained more medals. I expected more also,"" he said.

Other sports fans, such as young state worker, Ana Maria Rios, said some sports could have provided more titles for the Cuban delegation but the competition was very demanding.

The boxing squad turned out its best performance and obtained 3 gold and 3 bronze medals although four Cuban boxers were knocked out early.

""Our boxers under-performed because we expected at least 5 gold medals from them and that didn't happen,"" said Rios.

Cuba was also below its performance in London 2012 when it obtained 14 medals and finished 16th.

Sports authorities in the island had predicted up to seven gold medals and a 15th place finish.

However, the absence on the Olympic podium of Yarisley Silva (pole vault), Manrique Larduet (gymnastics), Asley Gonzalez (judo), Leuris Pupo (pistol), Rafael Alba (taekwondo) and boxers Lazaro Alvarez and Roniel Iglesias prevented the island from achieving its proposed goal.

Some medals were obtained by former Cuban athletes who represented other countries like Spain, Italy, Turkey and Azerbaijan this time.

""The issue is controversial and even questionable to many, but it just saddens us all as a people,"" Barbara Toledo, a Havana housewife, told Xinhua.

Orlando Ortega (silver in 110m hurdles) competed for Cuba until last year but he switched to Spain at the Olympics.

Boxer Lorenzo Sotomayor (64 kg), who ironically beat his training partner Yasniel Toledo in the quarterfinals, ended up with a silver medal for his new country, Azerbaijan.

Yasmani Copello (400m hurdles) in turn contributed a bronze medal for Turkey, while Frank Chamizo (wrestling) and Osmany Juantorena (men's volleyball) did the same for Italy.

Other Cubans viewed the results in a positive light and said their optimism was undimmed.

""I think sometimes our sports authorities create false expectations. They forget that we are a small country without economic resources that has merit in being among the top 20 in the world. That's a tremendous achievement and we must praise our athletes for it,"" Ruben Garcia, a private worker, told Xinhua.

For Cuban fans, Rio 2016 left a mixture of happy moments and disappointments, but new challenges and hopes now arise on the road to Tokyo 2020.

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