In the 110-year history of the modern age’s Olympic Games, several Latin American athletes have stood out in the main sports competition of the world. Handpicking the ten most outstanding athletes is not simple at all, but PanamericanWorld dares to propose a well-assorted list made up of representatives from different countries, who have conquered more than one medal in editions of the Games.
Teofilo Stevenson (Boxing, Cuba)
In the 1970s, Teofilo Stevenson was labeled as the most complete amateur boxer on the face of earth. His powerful punch allowed him to prevail over his heavyweight rivals and he was the star in several championships; although the Cuban pugilist will undoubtedly be recalled for his three consecutive titles in Olympic Games.
Stevenson got his first gold medal in the Munich edition of the Games, in 1972, where he beat US Duanne Bobick in quarterfinals. Four years later, in Montreal, his punch was even more impressive and, in the final, Rumanian Mircea Simion left the fight in the third round. Afterwards, in Moscow, 1980, Stevenson was unstoppable and, after beating former Soviet Piots Zaev for the title, he equaled Hungarian László Papp.
For the Los Angeles edition of the Games, in 1984, everybody was expecting Stevenson to get his fourth crown, but a boycott was carried out against the former Soviet Union, so the Cuban boxer lost his opportunity. He was described as one of the main Latin American Olympic legends.
Felix Savon (Boxing, Cuba)
Felix Savon is another great Cuban boxer that cannot be forgotten in the Olympic history, since he was the fighter with the highest number of amateur world titles (6) and he was on top of the podium in three editions of the Games, always in the 91 kg division. Savon won his first crown in Barcelona, back in 1992, where he defeated Nigerian David Izonritei in the final. In Atlanta, he prevailed over Canadian Defiagbon. He faced his toughest challenge during the Games held in Sidney, in 2000, since he beat US Bennet in quarterfinals, who had promised to break the Cuban athlete’s winning streak. In his last Olympic fight, Savon defeated Russian Ibragimov and joined the select triple champion club, which was already made up of Papp and Stevenson.
Regla Torres (Volleyball, Cuba)
The best volleyball player of the 20th century won three Olympic titles as a member of the so-called “Spectacular Caribbean Brunettes”, the Cuban women’s volleyball that ruled that sport throughout the 1990s.
Torres reached her first crown in Barcelona, in 1992, when she was only 17 years old and she was already a team regular. In the final, Cuba defeated the “Unified Team” in four sets. In Atlanta, the way to the gold was far more complex because the Cuban players lost two games in the qualifying stage; however, they got back on track and, against all forecasts, they defeated Brazil in the semifinal and China in the final.
Cuba’s third gold medal was the most spectacular one because, in the Sidney 2000 final, they lost the first two sets against Russia, but they somehow made it to the gold. Besides Torres, another three Cuban athletes shared the three titles: Mireya Luis, Marlenis Costa and Regla Bell.
Robert Scheidt (Sailing, Brazil)
Scheidt is the Brazilian athlete with more medals collected in Olympic Games (5): two titles, two silver medals and one bronze. This veteran athlete first stepped on the Olympic podium in Atlanta, in Laser mode, at the age of 23. Afterwards, in Sidney, he finished second, but he recovered the crown in Athens 2004. As for his fourth Olympic event, in Beijing, he joined Bruno Prada, in the Star, and conquered the silver; while in London, when he was already 39 years old, Scheidt once again accompanied Prada and got the bronze.
Pedro Luis Lazo (Baseball, Cuba)
Baseball was present, as an official sport, in five editions of the Olympic Games and Cuban pitcher Pedro Luis Lazo played in four of them, thus conquering two titles and two silver medals. The first crown was obtained in Atlanta, 1996. In Sidney, head coach Serbio Borges sent him as the starter in the final game against the United States, but he was defeated. In Athens 2004, Lazo was used as a relief pitcher (he participated in five games and saved two) and Cuba brought the crown back home. Finally, in Beijing, Lazo was in great shape, won a game and saved two; moreover, his final ERA was 1.26; however, Cuba lost the game for the gold against South Korea.
Jefferson Pérez (Athletics, Ecuador)
This athlete conquered Ecuador’s only Olympic title, by winning the 20 km walk in Athens 1996, with 1:20:07. Twelve years later, he clocked 1:19:15 and finished second in Beijing. If add up that Perez won three consecutive world titles in that specialty (the only athlete that has ever made it), then we can understand the importance of his walker to the Latin American sport.
Claudia Poll (Swimming, Costa Rica)
This swimmer participated in three editions of the Games and got Costa Rica’s only gold medal in Olympic Games. In 200 m freestyle, in Atlanta 1996, Poll (her sister Silvia had already been on the podium in Seoul, back in 1988), swam for the gold by clocking 1:58.16. In Sidney, Claudia once again made to the final of this specialty, but she finished third with 1:58.81. Furthermore, in those Games, the Costa Rican athlete got the bronze in 400 m freestyle (4:07.83). At the age of 31, Poll also competed in Athens, in 2004, although she was away from the podium, in 200 meters (tenth) and 400 (ninth).
Joaquin Capilla (Diving, Mexico)
Capilla is the Mexican athlete that has won the highest number of medals in Olympic Games: 4 (1 gold, 1 silver medals and 2 bronzes), in three editions of this event. He was specialized in 10 m platform. In London 1948, 19-year-old Capilla finished third, with 113.52. Four years later, in Helsinki, he improved that position and conquered the silver (145.21). He met glory in Melbourne 1956, where he was finally on top of the podium (152.44) and collected the bronze in “springboard”.
Driulys Gonzalez (Judo, Cuba)
Gonzalez is the most outstanding Latin American judoka of all time. She was on the Olympic podium four times and participated in five editions of this event. Her first medal was conquered in Barcelona 1992, where the Cuban athlete, who was 18 years old at the time, won the bronze in the 56 kg division. Nobody was counting on her for Atlanta, because she had suffered from a severe injury that practically stopped her from practicing. Nonetheless, Driulys made a complete recovery and got the title at the US city. She was the favorite to hold the crown in Sidney, but she was defeated by Spanish Isabel Fernandez. In Athens 2004, in the 63 kg division, the Cuban athlete finished with the bronze. At the age of 34, Gonzalez was still strong enough to fight for a medal in Beijing, but she lost in quarterfinals and was out of the podium.
Enmanuel Ginobili (Basketball, Argentina)
The most prizewinning Latin American basketball player of all time in NBA has a long Olympic history, since he has competed in three editions of the Games and now, in Rio, he’ll do his best to get a new medal for Argentina’s national team. Ginobili led the South American team that surprised everybody with the title in Athens, back in 2004. At the Greek, the Argentinean players defeated the US “Dream Team” in quarterfinals, mainly due to Ginobili’s great performance, since he scored 29 out of the 89 points in that game. Afterwards, in the final, Manu achieved 16 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, so he played a leading role in the win against Italy.
Four years later, in Beijing, the Argentinean players conquered the bronze medal (they were defeated by the United States). Finally, in London 2012, the 18 points scored by Ginobili didn’t help the team avoid a new defeat against the US athletes in quarterfinals. In the fight for the bronze, Ginobili improved his performance, but the team was taken down by Russia.