May 04, 2024

When the colossus, Mijaín López, said yes to Paris 2024, many people’s hearts skipped a beat. At this time, when his preparation is going through the expected thread, there are no other objections other than the heroic nuances of his legendary sports career.

The 41 years of age are only a motivation for the feat that the Cuban gladiator will try to materialize in the XXXIII edition of the Olympic Games.

When “The Giant” competes in the Greco-Roman wrestling tournament, he will be signing the sixth participation of his career in these contests, seeking nothing more and nothing less than the fifth title in an individual specialty.

“It is very difficult to achieve what he will do. Surely there are many athletes who will follow his legacy, but the bar remains very high, and I think it is an insurmountable feat,” says Raul Trujillo Diaz, head coach of the Cuban Greco-Roman wrestling team.

A man who has also dedicated his life to the sport. A man who believes in the man who has had the mission of coaching in recent times and a human being who trusts in the will of that Colossus, of Herradura, who has managed to sculpt an absolutely unique story.


Mijaín López Núñez was born in Herradura, a town in the municipality of Consolación del Sur, belonging to the province of Pinar del Río in western Cuba.

He is the youngest of three children born to Leonor Núñez and Bartolo López. Misael and Michel, his older brothers, also played sports, with Michel standing out by winning a bronze medal in the super heavyweight Olympic boxing in Athens 2004.

Mijaín started fighting when he was 10 years old. And as Michel told AFP in an interview, he was the “spoiled and grumpy” child in the family.

He was called, with obvious irony, El Niño, and occasionally El Terrible, because of his size and visible conditions for this discipline. When he was 13 years old he fractured his tibia and fibula in a competition, and although his father forbade him to continue wrestling, he returned to the mat. A blessed act of disobedience.


Although wrestling dates back to antiquity and originated in the regions of Rome and Greece, it was a French soldier of Napoleon, Jean Exbrayat, who first enunciated the rules of what we know today as Greco-Roman Wrestling, by popularizing the rule of no holds below the waist.

By that time, 1848, it began to be called “French wrestling” or “flat-handed wrestling”.

One would have to dig deep into the statistical trunks of this modality to find the exact date, but so much time has passed since Mijaín López conceded a point in his bouts that it is hard to remember.

In the imagination of the followers of the fight rests that fight he lost in the final of the world championship in Istanbul in 2011 to a very young Riza Kayaalp. Then we saw him fall again in 2015, to Kayaalp, at the 2015 Las Vegas World Championship. Other than that, little else.

Mijaín weighs over 130 kilos and is a potential giant. A colossus; a winner. The first title of his life came at the 2003 Pan American Games, in Santo Domingo, but he has as many medals as kilograms of weight.

The colossus MIjaín López, after winning his third gold medal in the Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla 2018.
The colossus MIjaín López, after winning his third gold medal in the Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla 2018.

Solo en la alta competición suma cuatro preseas de oro olímpicas, es cinco veces campeón mundial y también cinco veces campeón Panamericano. Tres títulos en Juegos Centroamericanos y del Caribe, tres títulos en Copas del Mundo, nueve en Campeonatos panamericanos de lucha, y así, sucesivamente.


What makes Mijaín great are his values. Loyalty, commitment and his will. The medals are only the fruit of that. And of wanting, believing and working.

Some 19 years have passed without him knowing what it means to lose a fight. People, rivals included, look at him with accumulated illusion. He always responds, with a wise gesture. He is absolutely clear that “Humility makes him greater.”

When he won in Tokyo 2020, he became the sixth athlete to string together four consecutive golds in the same discipline at Olympic Games after Paul Elvstrøm, Carl Lewis, Kaori Icho, Michael Phelps and Al Oerter.

That fourth gold medal in wrestling was enough to leave Alexander Karelin (gold in 1988, 1992, 1996, silver in 2000) behind, and consecrated his history on the island, surpassing the three Olympic titles of Teófilo Stevenson (1972, 1976, 1980) and Félix Savón (1992, 1996, 2000) in boxing.

Now, in Paris, El Coloso will try to break that national “record” that still holds the four gold medals won by the left-handed Ramon Fonst in fencing.

A few days after the end of his Olympic participation in the city of the Eiffel Tower. Just a few days after he will fight what should be the last official bout of his sporting career. Specifically on August 20, he will turn 42 years old.

“I see it, but I won’t believe it until the moment I achieve it,” he assured the Spanish-language portal of the Olympic Games, Mijaín López.

“I’m an athlete who does things step by step. I like everything to flow as it should. You have to train, you have to take care of yourself, you have to be disciplined, you have to strategize. But I do believe that I have the attitude and the confidence to make it”. – he concluded.

And it is difficult to imagine him without visualizing that he achieves his goal. He has shown so many signs of his mental strength that his inexorable physical strength remains in the background. With his presence he imposes, conditions and gives prestige to the great event.

And the fact is that the colossus perfectly embodies the victorious image of the invincible men of yesteryear.

Trujillo affirms that if we were in ancient times he would be considered, without a doubt, as one of those gods of Olympus.

He, meanwhile, still feels like the humble and restless boy who as a child chased animals and rode on fruit crates. He understands his life as a succession of events derived from the love and respect he feels for his sport and for the discipline with which he has acted throughout all these years that he has remained in high performance.

Written by Lilyan Cid


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