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10 years after winning an Olympic silver medal, Jaime Espinal happily retires


Olympic silver medalist Jaime Espinal and his family received a flag carved in wood from COPUR President Sara Rosario, on the day the wrestler announced his retirement. (Photo by COPUR)

By The Star Staff


Olympic wrestler Jaime Espinal Fajardo announced his retirement Thursday during a ceremony in the Joaquín Martínez Rousset salon of the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee (COPUR by its Spanish acronym) in San Juan.


The Dominican-Puerto Rican athlete won a silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012, becoming the second athlete to win silver after boxer Luis Francisco Ortiz captured one at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984.


Espinal Fajardo is the first Puerto Rican Greco-Roman wrestler to win silver in the Olympics; before that, he won gold in the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2010 and bronze in Veracruz in 2014.


“A day like today, I had my silver medal in London 2012. Today I want to officially announce that I am retiring from the sport of Olympic wrestling, never to compete again,” said the 38-year-old athlete, who was accompanied by his wife, a Tokyo 2020 Olympic wrestler for Mexico, Jane Valencia, and their daughter Joy. “Yes, I am still part of the Olympic Movement, and I’m still part of what Olympic wrestling is. Extremely grateful. It’s official.”


COPUR President Sara Rosario Vélez said: “Just today, August 11, 2012, all of Puerto Rico woke up to the news that we had an athlete, Jaime Espinal, who was going to the final of the Olympic wrestling match at the London Olympic Games.”


“That day, everyone in Puerto Rico knew who Jaime Espinal was. Everyone, too, knew that Olympic wrestling exists,” said Rosario Vélez, who stood out as chief of the Puerto Rico Delegation at that time.


“Jaime’s medal brought a lot of good things to [sports and specifically] Olympic wrestling,” she added.


Before London 2012, Puerto Rico had completed 16 years without obtaining a medal. Boxers had occupied the podium with six medals (one silver and five bronze), with Daniel Santos being the last winner in Atlanta 1996.


Puerto Rico Associated Wrestling Federation President Obed Santana said the retirement of the Olympic silver medalist at London in 2012 fills his organization with nostalgia.


“We feel a little sad because he has been an excellent athlete and has shown it in the time he was with us. He brought so much glory to Puerto Rico and the Federation,” said Santana, who has been with Puerto Rican Olympic wrestling for more than 35 years as an athlete, national coach, international referee, and now federation president. “Sometimes we want athletes to last us a lifetime. His space and decision are respected. Our respect for Jaime.”

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