Rio 2016 recap: Latino olympians who took home gold and made Olympics history
The 2016 Summer Olympic Games came to a conclusion on Sunday as it said goodbye to host Rio de Janeiro in a colorful closing ceremony.
To recap the 19-day sporting event—where the world’s greatest athletes represented their respective nations and competed for 306 medals that were up for grabs—the United States earned the most medals overall, with 121 (46 gold, 37 silver, 38 bronze) winnings. China trailed the U.S. with 70 medals overall, while Great Britain won the second-most gold medals with 27 despite receiving 67 total.
Little do people know, however, that the Latin American countries delivered a strong performance at the Olympics. In fact, the scores of Latino athletes who competed in the Games this year accumulated a total of 49 medals altogether. The olympians who went home with a plaque included representatives from Cuba, México, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, and Spain—although it’s not a Latin American country, it’s still a Spanish-speaking one.
Here’s a complete list of Latino athletes and teams who earned a gold medal for their country:
Men’s Olympic field hockey team
Argentina won their first-ever field hockey medal, and it was gold. In a gripping finals match against Belgium, who were also first-time finalists, the Argentine squad secured their victory in a 4-2 win. Their dominant performance, led by team captain Pedro Ibarra, puts Argentina and its men’s field hockey team on the map as their now the reigning champions.
Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli, Sailing (mixed)
Six-time olympian Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli joined forces to deliver Argentina a gold medal in sailing after winning the Nacra 17 Mixed medal race. It was an emotional win for Lange, who was the oldest sailor competing, at 54 years old. He recently overcame a battle with cancer in 2015, only to win his first gold medal with the help of his fellow sailor Saroli.
Paula Pareto, Judo (women’s 48kg)
Among 56 female judo practitioners competing for the gold medal, Pareto was the smallest and lightest—standing at 4 feet 11 inches and weighing less than 106 pounds. Therefore, it was easy for opponents to underestimate the Argentine judoka, but her fortitude proved naysayers wrong. Pareto made her way to the gold medal bout and defeated South Korea’s Jeong Bo Kyeong, who is ranked No.8 globally in judo. This victory was not only Pareto’s first gold medal ever, but Argentina’s first for the 2016 Summer Games.
Juan Martín del Potro, silver medal, Tennis (men’s singles)
Mariana Pajón, Cycling/BMX
Pajón defended her title as “Queen of BMX” and dominated the women’s individuals BMX race, winning her second gold medal in 34.09 seconds. The 24-year-old’s victory makes Pajón the first Colombian to win two gold medals.
Óscar Figueroa; Weightlifting (men’s 62kg)
There aren’t many 136-pound men who can lift 370 pounds over their head, TWICE. For weightlifter Oscar Figueroa, that’s exactly what it took for him (318 kilograms total) to win a gold medal for his homeland. He had already secured his victory despite failing his third attempt at lifting 179 kilograms. In an emotional moment in his career, the 33-year-old removed his shoes and placed them on the platform, signalling his retirement from the sport.
Caterine Ibargüen; Track & Field
After taking home a silver medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics, Ibargüen was determined to win gold this time around. In fact, she lept over 49 feet—15.27 meters, to be exact—to win the women’s triple jump. She was the only jumper to reach the 15-meter mark in the fourth round, which was enough for the 32-year-old to nab a gold medal in Rio. Ibargüen has not beaten her personal best, which is 15.31 meters.
Yuberjen Martínez, silver medal, Boxing (men’s light fly 49kg)
Yuri Alvear, silver medal, Judo (women’s 70kg)
Luis Javier Mosquera Lozano, bronze medal, Weightlifting (men’s 69 kg)
Carlos Ramirez, bronze medal, Cycling/BMX (men’s individuals)
Ingrid Lorena Valencia, bronze medal, Boxing (women’s fly 51kg)
Mónica Puig, Tennis
After Serena Williams’ shocking elimination, the tennis women’s singles tournament was slated to be an easy road to gold for No. 2-ranked Angelique Kerber of Germany. No one expected Kerber to be challenged, but 22-year-old San Juan native Monica Puig had something to say about that when they met in the final match. When it was all said and done, Puig upsetted Kerber in a “best out of three sets” (6-3, 4-6, 6-1) win, and delivered Puerto Rico their first gold medal in Olympic history.
Robeisy Ramírez Carranza; Boxing (bantam 56 kg)
Carranza won his second gold medal in a tantalizing, three-round war against USA’s Shakur Stevenson. The result came to split decision between the two boxers, leaving Stevenson in uncontrollable tears after Carranza’s hand was raised at the end of close bout. Carranza, 22, won in the flyweight division and moved up to Rio’s most competitive weight division. The southpaw fight, still very young, hopes to win a few more gold medals.
Julio César La Cruz; Boxing (Light Heavy 81 kg)
Two years after being shot in his hometown of Camagüey, La Cruz clinched a victory at the Rio Olympic Games against Kazakhstan's Adilbek Niyazymbetov. The 27-year-old’s win etched a mark in Olympic-gold-medal history as he became Cuba’s first light heavyweight champion, thus completing the island’s gold medal collection in every other weight division over the years.
Ismael Borrero Molina; Greco-Roman Wrestling (59 kg)
In a unanimous victory over Shinobu Ota of Japan, Cuba’s Ismael Borrero Molina became the Summer Games’ first wrestling gold medallist. The 8-0 win was a surprise to many as Ota, nicknamed “ninja wrestler”, was the gold medal favorite after defeating several top contenders, including Hamid Mohammad Soryan of Iran.
Arlen López, Boxing (75 kg)
Lopez, 23, became the Olympic middleweight champion after defeating Bektemir Melikuziev of Uzbekistan in a unanimous decision on Day 15 of the Summer Games. The Cuban’s win gives the island its third boxing gold medal at Rio 2016.
Mijaín López, Greco-Roman Wrestling (130 kg)
This 6-foot-5 beast, who is ranked No. 2 in the world, demolished Turkey’s Riza Kayaalp in order to obtained his third gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling. Lopéz’s historic victory makes him the ninth olympian to ever win three gold medals, and puts him in the elite club of athletes who’ve completed a golden hat-trick in the discipline, including wrestling great Aleksandr Karelin.
Idalys Ortiz, silver medal, Judo (women’sover 78kg)
Yasmany Lugo, silver medal, Greco-Roman Wrestling (men’s 98kg)
Erislandy Savón, bronze medal, Boxing (men’s heavy 91kg)
Lázaro Álvarez, bronze medal, Boxing (men’s light 60 kg)
Joahnys Argilagos, bronze medal, Boxing (men’s fly 49 kg)
Denia Caballero, bronze medal, Track & Field (women’s discus throw)
Saul Craviotto Rivero and Cristian Toro Carballo, Canoe Sprint
The Spanish canoeist duo claimed their gold medal at the kayak 200m doubles, crossing the finish line in 32.07 seconds and winning Spain’s fifth gold medal in the Rio Games. Team Great Britain, who trailed Rivero and Carballo, came in at 32.36 seconds. Lithuania followed with a 32.38-second recorded time.
Mireia Belmonte, Swimming
Clocking in at 2:04.85, Belmonte topped Australian swimmer Madeline Grove at the 200m butterfly medal race. This is Belmonte’s second medal; she won a bronze medal in the 400m individual medley, an earlier competition.
Marcus Walz, Canoe Sprint
Spain's Marcus Walz, with a time of 3:31.45, outlasted his opponents to win gold in men's kayak single 1000m. Czech Republic won silver, and Russia won received a bronze medal in this event.
4. Marc Lopez and Rafael Nadal, Men’s tennis doubles
Rafael Nadal won a singles gold at the 2008 Beijing Games, and got a taste of gold again as he—along with teammate Marc Lopez— beat Romania’s men’s doubles tennis team. The Spanish tennis pair won two of the three sets(6-2, 3-6, 6-4) to win gold in men’s doubles.
Maialen Chourraut; Canoe Slalom
Previously winning a bronze medal at the 2012 London Games, Spanish slalom canoeist Maialen Chourraut was on a mission to bring home a women’s kayak singles gold medal. The 33-year-old Spaniard erupted with excitement as she finished the race at 98.65 seconds, beating New Zealand’s (101.82) and Australia’s (102.49) canoeists to win gold.
Carolina Marín; Badminton
Marin, who is the world’s top ranked badminton star, received her gold medal after defeating India's Sindhu Pusarla 2-1 (19-21, 21-12, 21-15) in the women's singles gold medal match.
Ruth Beitia; Track and Field
It was a four-way tie between USA, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Spain as all four women cleared the 1.97m jump. However, Beitia’s nearly perfect performance at the high jump event earned her the gold medal. She had the fewest failures at earlier heights, followed by Bulgaria and Croatia. At 37 years old, Beitia became the oldest Olympic champion in the jumps.
Alejandra Quereda, silver medal, Rhythmic Gymnastics (women’s all around)
Spain women’s basketball team, silver medal
Orlando Ortega, silver medal, Track & Field (men’s 110m hurdles)
Eva Calvo Gómez, silver medal, Taekwondo (women’s 57kg)
Mireia Belmonte, bronze medal, Swimming (400m individual)
Saúl Craviotto Rivero, bronze medal, Canoe Sprint (kayak single 200m)
Spain men’s basketball team, bronze medal
Carlos Coloma Nicolás, bronze medal, Mountain Bike (men’s cross country)
Lidia Valentín, bronze medal, Weightlifting (75kg)
Joel González, bronze medal, Taekwondo (men’s 68kg)
Latinos come in all forms. Below is a list of gold medalists who, although didn’t represent a Latin American country, are still of Hispanic descent:
Carmelo Anthony, U.S. men’s basketball team
With the help of Carmelo Anthony, the U.S. men’s basketball team cruised by all competition. Rio 2016 was Anthony’s last Olympic run, but his résumé will forever remain part of U.S. Olympic history. The 6-foot-8 Forward, who is half-Puerto Rican, became Team USA’s all-time leader in games played, rebounds, and points. In addition, with four medals under his belt (three gold and one bronze), Anthony is Team USA’s most decorated basketball player.
Laurie Hernandez, U.S. women’s gymnastics team
Her dazzling performance at the Summer Games has made Hernandez a breakout star. Often referred to as the “Human Emoji” for her many facial expressions and infectious smile, the Puerto Rican-American gymnast won a gold medal in the all-around competition, while getting a silver medal in the women’s beams—second to Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands. Nonetheless, Hernandez being apart of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team is a historic feat in itself, as the 16-year-old is not only the youngest member ever, but the first Latina since 1984 to join the team.