A cyclist controversy occurred last month. While the two biggest Colombian representatives of the sport that have given more glories to our country (Nairo Quintana and Mariana Pajon) heated the debate on the administration of the Colombian Cycling Federation, Sofia Arrieta and Gabriela Bolle stand out winning races at the United States Cycling Elite National Championship and World Cup Qualifier.
Last week a bomb exploded in the Colombian cycling world when the two-time Olympic gold medalist, Mariana Pajon, indirectly responded to the serious accusations made from the road cycling superstar Nairo Quintana about how the Federation wasn’t doing a good job helping the athletes.
The current champion of “Vuelta a España,” and former winner of “Giro D´Italia,” Quintana said that the country doesn’t have real leadership and that the athletes that triumphed do so not by their help, but by their merit only. He complained about the recent reelection of the president on the Federation, where he was supporting an opposition candidate. He expressed his discomfort at the result saying that he doesn’t understand how the local leagues can reelect a candidate that doesn’t support local tournaments or even presents economic balances supporting his decisions.
On the other side of the track, an audio of the BMX rider Pajon was revealed contradicting her colleague’s opinion. In it, Mariana, whose father is a current member of the reelected federation, criticized the way Nairo picked to express his concerns and suggest he should be pedaling instead of involving himself in politics. She said that his words destroy all the work they have done. She argues that even though he could be right on some issues, he shouldn’t have made it public like that. In her opinion, this would jeopardize the development of the sport in Colombia because his words can lead companies not to want to sponsor cycling fearing that all he said it’s true.
This disagreement opens a national debate on how well local cyclists are doing internationally, and how the national institutions assist them. On this topic in Barranquilla, curiously this month, two local riders went to the US BMX National Championship in Rock Hill, NC, and came back with great results.
Out of the 34 titles that Colombia won at the American Nationals held in North Carolina, Atlántico contributed with the ones by Sofia Arrieta, who obtained the silver medal at the women ten years old category; and with Gabriela Bolle, a member of the Colombian BMX W Élite team, that won two championship days at this national event, winning over major North American squads. Gabriela, who is seventeen years old, is currently ranked number 18th worldwide at the UCI women Junior.
Regarding the controversy, both Barranquilleras are sponsored by Indeportes Atlántico, which means they both get some of the economic aid from the governmental organization. Sofia, who in addition to her medal also entered to three three podiums in open mix categories 9-10 and Girls 10, is qualified for the World Cup in the second place of the national ranking. While Gabriela, who also made her way to the semifinals in the junior category in NC, is still looking for her qualification for the next BMX WC.
About a year ago when Barranquilla Life first published an article about Sofia´s early triumphs, only Gabriela had support from the government. However, soon after her career escalated, she was also included in the departmental aid program. This is regarding, Atlántico only.
About the controversy
Nairo Quintana opted to express his concerns about the federation in a major press conference prepared before leaving the country for this year’s Giro D´Italia.
After his words, the affected Jorge Ovidio Gonzalez, President of the entity, said that Quintana was defocused and misinformed. The leader added that his organization has never broken relations with Nairo, but explained that the election last January of the new board were not to the liking of Nairo because he pushed the candidacy of another leader who did not win. “It is reasonable what happened, Quintana went for the office with other leaders and lost. He justified the statements of the champion saying that this is still mourning.
Soon after the WhatsApp audio of Mariana Pajón was revealed in the press. And as soon as it did, her family released a statement clarifying that the sportswomen did not mean to offend her colleague, or even criticize his words since the audio wasn’t directed to him. They argue that her words were in the context of a conversation between her and her father in which she answered the previous question about what was her opinion on Nairo´s comments.
Twitter Jokes about the controversy
— Juan D López (@JuannL7) April 25, 2017
After this, Nairo also published a video saying that he admires Mariana, that he didn’t take her words in a wrong way, and wished her a lot of success.
After this, cyclists like Marcelo Gutierrez, downhill specialist and a member of the international team Giant (one of the best in the world), said that he always covers the federations advertisers and logos in his jersey before his competitions because they don’t give him any help.
About the audio Leaking.
Mariana’s dad, Carlos Mario Pajón revealed that he would think Ovidio did it. He said that after the audio was out the President called him and Mariana with apologies. However he also clarified that “Jorge is a serious guy with all these matters, I would not believe that he did it looking for a profit and doing damage to Mariana.” Jorge Ovidio, on the other hand, denied that he had released the audio and revealed that Carlos himself passed the file to him for it to be shared only with the members of the Executive Committee.
Social Media Division
Vamos a definir esto ya.
— Del Pilar (@pilar_rod) April 25, 2017
The convenience of the audio filtration to the press created a huge debate on the social media dividing the Colombian public into the two teams. Since both parties are directly involved in the politic dispute, no side gained much out of the confrontation. Nairo was criticized for using a position of power in the media before the big competition to get an advantage. And Mariana was pointed for the convenience of the leaking, which distracted the eyes from the Federation and transformed the topic in a crash of sports titans.
— NN (@franklin1055) April 26, 2017
The tension on the social networks escalated to the point of the traditional regional and socioeconomic disputes. Highclass and paisas chearing for Mariana vs middleclass and rolos supporting Nairo. Even as a response to the audio, a picture of Mariana with the former hitman of Pablo Escobar, Popeye, was leaked to undermine her image, and add it as an argument in the detabe.
But despite this particular political division, both of them keep uniting the country with their sportive accomplishments. Just today, Nairo won the El Acebo stage of the Austrian tour, and Mariana won the sixth race on the France´s BMX cup.