Latin American sports lived great moments in 2017. In a year without Games, Olympic or Pan-American, individual performances delivered by stars from such realms as athletics, soccer, baseball, boxing, judo and swimming caught the eyes of enthusiasts, although the list of outstanding wins also includes teams that made history, just like Brazil’s soccer and volleyball teams. PanamericanWorld proposes an approach to 10 sports developments over the past twelve months. Which is your favorite one?
YULIMAR ROJAS’ WORLD TITLE IN LONDON
The London Athletics World Championship can be described as the most important event in 2017. At the British capital, a 21-year-old Venezuelan athlete, Yulimar Rojas, became the first world champion of her country by winning in triple jump, with 14.91 meters, thus leaving the main favorite behind, Colombian Catherine Ibargüen, who was looking for her third championship. This spectacular triumph helped her be chosen as the Best Female Athlete of the Year in America, by the Association of National Olympic Committees.
MVP FOR JOSE ALTUVE
The Venezuelan player had another great MLB season, crowned by the first World Series title for the Houston Astros. Altuve was the batting champion of the American League, third time in his career, by finishing with .346. Moreover, Altuve was the leader in terms of hits (204), was named Most Valuable Player and won the Silver Bat. He delivered seven homeruns in the playoff (three in the same game, against the Boston Red Sox) and pushed 14 runs.
THE RETURN OF BRAZIL’S “JOGO BONITO”
Brazil’s national soccer team, coached by Tite, took center stage in the qualifying round of Conmebol to the World Championship to be hosted by Russia in 2018, since it totaled 41 points, 10 more than Uruguay, which finished second. After a gray period, with Dunga as TD, the “canarinha” has recovered its jogo bonito and its galaxy of stars, led by Neymar, showed its best level in this tournament. The numbers are convincing: the Brazilian team won 12 games, equalized 5 and was only defeated one time. Could the sixth world title be conquered in Russia?
FOURTH WORLD BOXING CROWN FOR CUBAN JULIO CESAR LA CRUZ
Today’s best Cuban boxer, Julio Cesar la Cruz, 81 kg, reaffirmed his leadership in the division by conquering his fourth world title in the Championship held in Hamburg, Germany. “The Shadow”, a nickname given because of his fast movements on the ring and capacity to hit and evade punches, won all his fights, 5-0. Moreover, La Cruz won the Pan American tournament hosted by Tegucigalpa.
PUERTO RICO, LATIN AMERICAN’S BEST REPRESENTATIVE IN THE 4TH WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC
The Puerto Rican team took the “Latin taste” to the fourth World Baseball Classic. Many people thought that the previous champions, the Dominicans, would be leading the region once again; however, the Puerto Ricans played the leading role, guided by such young stars as Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa, who did their very best. Puerto Rico made it to the grand finale of the tournament with an unbeaten record, after defeating Holland. When fighting for the title, the United States took the batting lead and won the event. Four Puerto Rican players were included in the Classic All Star Team (catcher Yadier Molina, second base Javier Baez, short field Lindor, third base Correa and right fielder Carlos Beltran).
ANA MARCELA CUNHA’S UNSTOPPABLE STROKES
This Brazilian athlete is described as one of the best open-water swimmers of the world. In 2017, she won the 25 km marathon, third time in her career, in the competition held in Budapest; moreover, in this very championship, Cunha got two bronze medals in the 5-10 km marathon.
PORTO ALEGRE’S GREMIO RAISED ITS THIRD COPA LIBERTADORES
It was the third time the Brazilian club conquered the Copa Libertadores, by defeating Argentinean Lanús, in two games (1-0 and 2-1). Gremio, coached by Renato Gaucho, had Luan Vieira as the top scorer, with eight goals in 12 games. With this win, Gremio is set to represent South America in the World Clubs Championship and play in the 2018 Recopa Sudamericana against the champion of 2017 Copa Sudamericana.
LIONEL MESSI’S FOURTH GOLDEN BOOT
The Argentinean soccer player couldn’t win his sixth Golden Ball, but at least he conquered his fourth Golden Boot, a prize given to the top goal scorer in the main European leagues. In the 2016-17 season, Messi played 34 games in the Spanish League, with Barcelona team, and scored 37 goals, for a 1.09 average. This is how he matched Cristiano Ronaldo in the number of Golden Boots. Furthermore, Messi was a key element to Argentina’s qualification to 2018 Russia World Championship.
BRAZILIAN VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS WERE BACK ON TOP
Brazil’s women volleyball team had a great 2017, since it won the three most important crowns of the year: Grand Prix, Masters hosted by Swiss Montreux and the Pan American Championship. This was the tenth crown in a Grand Prix for the South American athletes, who worked hard to take Italy down in the final, in five sets. Natalia Pereira was handpicked as the Most Valuable Player of the event; while Adenízia da Silva was the best blocker.
MAYA AGUIAR CLIMBED TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD PODIUM
This 26-year-old Brazilian judoka, who competes in the 78 kg division, won the second world title in her career by prevailing over her rival, Japanese Mami Umeki, in the final of the Championship, held in Budapest.