Although his last appearance took place more than 10 years ago in Santo Domingo, the Cuban gymnast Eric López remains the top medal winner in the Pan American Games.
López has a total of 22 medals, including 18 golds, over four Pan American Games since Cuba hosted the multi-continental competition in 1991.
Though he was not yet 17 years old at the time, and a more modest contribution within the team would have been called for, López ended up stealing the show at all-around individual.
At the venue in Santiago de Cuba alongside experienced teammates such as Casimiro Suarez and Felix Aguilera, López won three golds and a silver medal.
Born in Havana on December 29, 1972, López began gymnastics at age six, without imagining the degree of perfection he would go on to achieve.
Considered by many to be the best gymnast in the Americas, he has also been a World Gymnastics medalist, rubbed elbows with sporting elite and defeated prestigious competitors.
López’s star shone brightly at the Central American and Caribbean Games, but he excelled even further at the Pan Americans.
Landing at the in the Mar del Plata, Argentina Pan Am games in 1995 barely recovered from an injury, López did not miss a beat and placed brilliantly in open competition (all around individual) and crowned his achievement with gold medals on the parallel bars and pommel horse.
Moving on to Winnipeg in 1999, López made it in the books as the first gymnast to win a third consecutive gold medal in open competition (all-around individual) continental games, and went on to win the parallel bars, pommel, rings and equipment.
The weight of another four years in between games looked as though it would be too much. But López competed in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 2003 at 30 years old and as a new generation of gymnasts was coming forward.
However, his discreet and quiet genius was felt as never before, winning six medals and making his precense felt on the island.
Not content with winning the open competition for the fourth consecutive time, he propelled the Cuban group to another gymnastics victory and to top it off earned gold medals in vaulting, rings, parallel bars and pommel horse.
Thus Eric López bid a brilliant goodbye to the sport with which he has maintained a love affair, drawing accolades for his total medal wins of 18 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze.
Eric López. (Photo: José Luis Anaya)