Several Latin American athletes and teams have written their achievements in the centenarian history of the modern-age Olympic Games. PanamericanWorld proposes you to recall 10 of those unforgettable moments. Which one do you think is the most impressive of all?
Three Titles Conquered by Boxer Teofilo Stevenson (Cuba)
Stevenson is described as the best amateur heavyweight of all time. He had a powerful punch and he knew how to finely move throughout the ring. This boxer won his first Olympic title in Munich, 1972, where his rivals were KO —US favorite Duane Bobick was one of them—; afterwards, in Montreal, he collected more wins and, four years later, in Moscow, the Cuban boxer got his third crown by defeating Soviet Petr Zayev, 4 – 1.
Three Olive Crowns for Felix Savon (Cuba)
Savon is also a three-time boxing Olympic champion, like his compatriot Stevenson and Hungarian Lazslo Papp. Many people labeled him as the successor of Stevenson, when this athlete retired, and although his punch was never as powerful as great Teofilo’s, the truth is that he easily prevailed over his rivals in the 91 kg division for 15 years. Savon’s first crown came in the Barcelona edition of the Olympic Games, 1992, where he defeated Nigerian David Izonritei in the final fight. Then, in Atlanta, he fought for the gold against Canadian David Defiagbon (20 – 2). The Games hosted by Sidney were more complex for Savon, since he had to do his best to take Russian Sultan Ibragimov down (21 – 13).
The Reign of the Caribbean Brunettes (Cuba)
During a decade, the Cuban women’s volleyball team was unbeatable. The so-called “Spectacular Caribbean Brunettes” won everything in that time. The Olympic feat began in Barcelona, when the team coached by Eugenio George and led by Mireya Luis, Regla Torres and Regla Bell, won the final. In Atlanta, in a much more complex tournament that included a clash with the Brazilian volleyball players after the semifinals, the Cuban team held the crown by defeating China. The most spectacular triumph was witnessed in Sidney because, in the final duel against Russia, the Cuban athletes were down in the first two sets. When everybody thought they were lost, the girls were back on track and prevailed over the Russian team behind, thus conquering their third crown. The list of three-time Olympic champions includes: Luis, Torres, Bell, Ana Ibis Fernandez, Idalmis Gato, Lili Izquierdo and Marlenis Costa.
The Golden Girls of Brazilian Volleyball (Brazil)
After the Cuban volleyball team’s reign came to an end, the Brazilian players were on top of the list. In Beijing Games, the team that counted on Jaqueline Carvalho and Sheilla Castro defeated the US girls in the final. Four years later, in London, the South American players didn’t have a good first stage and they barely qualified in the fourth position of their group. That’s why the faced the super favorite Russian team in quarterfinals. In that duel, the Brazilian team showed its highest level and won the five sets; they later left the Japanese girls behind and, once again, they prevailed over the United States. Now, in Rio Olympic Games, they’ll try match the Cuban team’s achievement.
The Golden Generation of Argentinean Basketball (Argentina)
The Argentinean basketball team delivered, in Athens Games, 2004, one of the best performances of Latin American team sports. In that tournament, the South American players coached by Roberto Magnano, defeated the US Dream Team in the semifinals, even it was made up of such talents as LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Allan Iverson and Tim Duncan. The Argentinean team was led by Emanuel Ginobili (who was 24 at the time) and the lineup included Fabricio Oberto, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and Andres Nocioni. Then, in the final, they won against Italy and got the Olympic title.
Messi, Agüero and Di María Kick for Olympic Titles (Argentina)
Soccer is another team sport in Argentina that has made history in the Olympic Games. In the Athens edition of the Games, 2004, the -23 team entered the record book by obtaining the only title that was missing on their shelf, since they had previously lost the Olympic final in Amsterdam, 1928, and Atlanta, 1996. At the Greek capital, the team was headed by Marcelo “el Loco” Bielsa and engulfed such future stars as Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano and Javier Saviola, as well as more experience players like Roberto Ayala, Gabriel Heinze and Cristian “Kily” Gonzalez. The South American players defeated Paraguay in the final, 1 – 0, with a goal scored by Tevez. Four years later, in Beijing, with Lionel Messi, Juan Roman Riquelme, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Sergio “Kun” Agüero and Angel di Maria, the Argentinean team goaled Brazil 3 – 0 in semifinals. Later on, in the final, Messi passed the ball to di Maria, who scored the only goal against Nigeria. This is how the Argentinean team became twice Olympic champion.
Three Titles for Cuban Baseball in Five Olympic Games (Cuba)
Baseball was officially included in the Olympic program in Barcelona, 1992, and in five editions of the Games, through Beijing, 2008, the Cuban team played the leading role by participating in the five finals and winning three of them. The first title came up in Barcelona, with an easy triumph against China Taipei; afterwards, in Atlanta, they won against Japan, 13 – 9. In Sidney, the United States defeated Cuba in the game for the title, 4 – 0, with a great performance by starter Ben Sheets. In Athens, the Cuban players recovered the crown by prevailing over Australia and, in Beijing, South Korea put an end to the four-time champion’s hopes, by defeating the Caribbean team, 3 – 2. The Cuban ball player with the highest number of medals is pitcher Pedro Luis Lazo, with 4 (2 gold medals and 2 silvers).
Joaquin Capilla’s Golden Dives (Mexico)
Diver Joaquin Capilla is the Mexican athlete with the highest number of medals won in Olympic Games, four; but perhaps the most valuable element to point out is the fact that he won them in three different editions of the Games. In the so-called “Austerity Games”, London 1948, Capilla got the bronze medal in the platform. Four years later, in Helsinki, he improved the result by winning a silver one, and in Melbourne, 1956, he finally conquered the gold and collected another bronze medal on the diving board.
Adhemar Ferreira da Silva’s Olympic Triple Jumps (Brazil)
Brazilian triple jumper Adhemar Ferreira da Silva has been one of the most outstanding athletes of his country in the Olympic Games, since he conquered two titles in consecutive editions. His first Olympic participation took place in London, 1948, where he was ranked in the 14th position. Four years later, the triple jumper stood out in Helsinki by winning the gold medal with a 16.22 meter jump. In Melbourne, Ferreira de Silva held his crown, with 16.35 meters.
Nicolas Massu’s Name in Record Books (Chile)
Nicolas Massu was included in the Olympic record books because both Massu and Serena Williams are the only tennis players that have won two gold medals in the same edition of the Games. In Athens, 2004, against all predictions, the Chilean player defeated US Mardy Fish in the final (6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3 and 6-4); and he later joined Fernando Gonzalez in doubles. This couple got the gold by beating German Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schüttler.