Basque Fact of the Week: Basques at the 2021 Olympics

The 2021 Olympics, hosted by Japan, are about half over. There have been a number of dramatic story lines already to go along with the amazing feats of athletic prowess. And, while the Basque Country doesn’t get to field its own team, there are of course a number of Basque athletes that are competing at the games. There are 21 from the Basque Autonomous Community alone, not counting any from Nafarroa or Iparralde. Here is a run down of a few that have already competed and others that are coming up. This list isn’t complete, so if you know of others, please tell me in the comments.

Maialen Chourraut in her qualifying run for the K1 canoe slalom, in which she eventually won silver. Photo from
  • Pauline Ado is a surfer from Baiona. In 2016, she won Bronze at the World Surfing Games. She lost on Monday to Sally Fitzgibbons of Australia, ending her quest for a medal.
  • Julen Aguinagalde Akizu is part of the Spanish men’s handball team, which is still in medal contention. Also from Irun, Julen has been playing professionally since 2000. He was also part of the 2012 games in London.
  • Jonathan Atsu, of France, competed in the 200 meters freestyle, where he was eliminated in an early heat.
  • Clara Azurmendi Moreno, from Donostia, has played two matches of badminton, winning one and losing one, in group play. However, she won’t be moving on to the next round.
  • José María Basterra Ochoa is a professional field hockey player who is playing for the Spanish national team in Tokyo. The team has played five games, winning one, losing two, and two ties. They play Belgium on Sunday in the quarterfinals.
  • Maialen Chourraut Yurramendi, from Lasarte-Oria in Gipuzkoa, won the silver medal in the K1 canoe slalom event. In the Rio games, she won gold. She’s also won a number of World Cups in the K1, the first time in 2010. She is the first Basque to win three Olympic medals.
  • Carlota Ciganda Machiñena is a professional golfer. She was born in Pamplona. She was named Rookie of the Year in 2012 and was ranked 15th in the world at the end of 2020. On Wednesday, she will compete in the Women’s Individual Stroke Play.
  • Virginia Díaz Rivas, of Basque Team, and her Catalan partner Aina Cid Centelles competed in coxless pair, finishing sixth in the final. By finishing in the top 8, she earned an Olympic diploma.
  • Ander Elosegi Alkain is also a slalom canoeist, from Irun, also in Gipuzkoa, he has the distinction to be the first Basque to compete in four different Olympic Games. He’s won silver twice and bronze once at the World Cup. At Tokyo, he finished 8th in the finals, earning an Olympic diploma for a top-8 finish.
  • Teresa Errandonea Fernández de Barrena is a hurdler from Irun, in Gipuzkoa. She finished 6th in her heat on Saturday, July 31, which wasn’t enough to qualify for the next round. She holds the Basque record for the 100 meter hurdles with a time of 13.16 seconds.
  • The Nafarroan Sergio Fernández Roda, a hurdler from the town of Barañáin, first participated in the Olympics at the 2016 games in Rio. He has reached as high as 2nd place in the European Championships. He was was eliminated in the first round of the 400 meter hurdles in Tokyo.
  • Omar Fraile Matarranza, born in Santurtzi, Bizkaia, is a racing cyclist. He competed in the road race that was held on Saturday, July 24, but did not finish.
  • Eduardo Gurbindo Martínez, from Pamplona, is a professional handball player. He and his teammate Julen Aguinagalde, along with the rest of the Spanish national team, have won 3 of 4 games in Group A, with the next game to be played on Sunday against Argentina.
  • Ainhoa Hernández Serrador is part of the Spanish women’s handball team. From Barakaldo, near Bilbao, this is her first Olympics. The team plays against Russia on Monday.
  • Gorka Izagirre Insausti is a cyclist from Ormaiztegi, Gipuzkoa. He finished 23rd on the road race held on Saturday, July 24. His brother Ion competed in the same event, finishing 79th. Ion also competed in the time trial, but did not finish.
  • Odei Jainaga Larrea, from Eibar, Gipuzkoa, is competing in his first Olympic Games in the men’s javelin throw. The competition starts on Wednesday, August 4. He holds the Spanish record with a distance of 84.80 meters.
  • Xabier López-Arostegui Eskauriaza is a professional basketball player. Born in Getxo, Bizkaia, he currently plays for Valencia Basket. The Spanish team has won its first two games in Group C, with the next game on August 1.
  • Elena Loyo Menoyo, from Vitoria, is a marathon runner. She will compete in the women’s marathon on August 7.
  • Asier Martínez Echarte, born in Zizur Mayor in Nafarroa, specializes in the 110 meter hurdles. By finishing second in the Spanish national championship, he qualified for Tokyo. He competes on August 3 — Tuesday.
  • Mikel Merino Zazón is a professional soccer player from Pamplona. He plays for Real Sociedad. He is part of the Spanish national team playing in Tokyo.
  • Jon Moncayola Tollar, from the Nafarroan town of Garinoian, is professional soccer player who plays for Osasuna. He is part of the Spanish national team in Tokyo.
  • Garbiñe Muguruza Blanco is a tennis player from Venezuela but who competes for Spain — her father is from Azkoitia, Gipuzkoa. She’s reached number 1 in the world rankings and defeated Serena Williams in the 2014 French Open. She lost on Wednesday in the women’s singles quarterfinals to Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina.
  • Alberto Munárriz Egaña is from Pamplona and is part of the Spanish national water polo team. He also competed in the 2016 games in Rio. So far, Spain is undefeated in Group B play. They wrap up group play on Monday against Croatia.
  • Mikel Oyarzabal Ugarte is a forward for Real Sociedad, playing in Tokyo as part of the Spanish national team. He was born in Eibar, Gipuzkoa. The Spanish team has made it to the semifinal match, which will be against Japan on Tuesday.
  • Nerea Pena Abaurrea is a professional handball player from Pamplona. She is part of the Spanish national team that is playing in group B, which wraps up on Monday against Russia. She also participated in the 2016 games in Rio.
  • Íñigo Peña Arriola, a spring canoeist, is from Zumaia, Gipuzkoa, competing in the men’s K-4 1000 meters. This is his second Olympics, having also participated in the Rio Games. The canoe sprint starts on Wednesday, August 4.
  • Kevin Peponnet, born in Donibane Lohizune, Lapurdi, is competing in sailing.
  • Jon Rahm Rodríguez, a golfer from Barrika, Bizkaia, is perhaps the most famous athlete on this list, having recently won the US Open and current number 1 ranked golfer in the world, was scheduled to compete in Tokyo, but is stuck at home due to a positive COVID test.
  • Ane Santesteban González, from Errenteria, Gipuzkoa, finished 28th in the women’s road race. This was her second Olympics.
  • Unai Simón Mendibil, a goalkeeper for Athletic Bilbao, originally hails from Vitoria. He is part of the Spanish national team.
  • Martín Zubimendi Ibáñez, whose day job is to play for Real Sociedad, was born in Donostia. As part of the Spanish national team, he will play in the semifinals against Japan on Tuesday.

Primary sources: Basque Team 2021,;; ¿Cuándo y a qué hora compiten los deportistas vascos en los Juegos Olímpicos de Tokio?

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