Jorge Delgado: Passion, Discipline and Talent
With the exception of Jefferson Pérez (Olympic champ in 1996), Andres Gomez (French Open tennis champ), Osvaldo Guayasamin (painter), few Ecuadorans are better known internationally than Jorge Delgado Panchana.
During the South American Swimming Championship, which was held in Arica (Chile) in the early 1970s, Ecuador’s swimmer Jorge Delgado came to international attention when he picked up a total of eight medals (5 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze). In Arica, Delgado, 17, beat Juan Carlos “Johnny” Bello, a sporting legend in Peru and Latin America. Without a doubt, he was Bello’s successor. Some years ago, at a meet in the United States, Bello had defeated Mark Spitz, who won seven 1972 Olympic golds.
Delgado’s victory in Chile was the beginning of a streak that continue into the following decade. Prior to the 1972 Munich Olympics, he took first place in the men’s 200m butterfly at the Pan American Games in Cali (Colombia). Delgado’s time broke the Pan American record of 2:06. 42 set by Mark Spitz (USA) in 1967. At the XX Olympiad in Munich (West Germany), he was agonisingly close to winning a 200m butterfly bronze medal (among 39 swimmers from 27 countries of the world). Later that time, he captured many medals in the South American Tournament in Medellin (Colombia).
At the FINA World Championships, which was held in Cali (Colombia), by July 1975, Ecuador’s idol Delgado qualified in three individual events. He finished fifth in the men’s 100m and 200m butterfly. In addition, he came in seventh place in the 200m freestyle. In October of that year, this athlete swam a new continental record time of 1:55, 45 to win the men’s 200m freestyle final, ahead of Rick DeMont and Rex Favero (both Americans), at the 7th Pan American Games in the United Mexican States; his second Pan American title. In Mexico City, he also captured a bronze medal.
In his second Olympics in July 1976, Delgado, an American-trained athlete, was one of Latin American’s most respected swimmers. Prior to July, he picked up a total of four gold medals in the South American Championships in Maldonado, Uruguay. During the course of the tournament, he also established two continental records.
His brilliant career ended with his retirement in 1978 when the national team, under the tutelage of Jack Nelson (one of America’s most high profile coaches), won the South American Tournament in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city. With passion, discipline and talent, the team of Ecuador had dominated the event, being followed by Brazil, which had not lost a continental tournament since the 1960s. Inspired by the visiting American Olympic champ John Naber, Delgado -a Guayaquil-born swimmer- was one of the most successful athletes in the international event. The following year, by 1979, he was named as one of the best athletes of Latin America. Three years later, surprisingly, Guayaquil was home to the FINA World Championships. This global event was a tribute to Jorge Delgado Panchana, the most popular national athlete until 1996 and one of Latin America’s finest swimmers in the latter half of the 2oth century. A great champion!