5 of The Greatest Latino Athletes in the History of the Olympic Games

 | August 11, 2022

Image courtesy of Nuestro Stories.

World-class athletes are born of our genetics. From basketball to diving, boxing to volleyball, to running and gymnastics, Latinos have left their mark all along those five Olympic rings and backed it up with Olympic medals. 

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best Latinos ever to step foot on the podium. Their legacy is one that will be everlasting, and we’re happy to help share their contributions. 

Manu Ginóbili

Emmanuel ‘Manu’ Ginobli is the most highly decorated Latin American NBA basketball player of all time, but when it comes to the Olympics? He continually represents his home country of Argentina. Though few teams in Olympic basketball history have been able to beat the American ‘Dream Team’, Manu Ginobli played the starring role in Argentina’s first and only Olympic gold medal. His team defied expectations, knocked the 2004 Dream Team out in the semi-finals, and beat Italy in the final round.

Tracee Talavera

Tracee Talavera became the first Latina to ever make the US Women’s Gymnastic team, with her talent being spotted and recruited at an early age. At just shy of 13, Tracee Talavera earned a spot in the 1979 US women’s world championship, even though she was so young that she couldn’t actually compete. 

The minimum age requirement was 14. Tracee waited it out for a year and, in 1980, won the year’s Olympic trials. Of course, as it turned out, she and all other American athletes could not compete as America was boycotting the Moscow-based games in response to the Former Soviet Union’s military response to Afghanistan. She held on for her final shot in 1984 when the women’s gymnastic team won a then historic silver medal. 

Teofilo Stevenson

There was no better amateur boxer to walk the face of this Earth than Teofilo Stevenson. This Cuban-born heavyweight was famous for his quick abilities and power-packing punch capable of sidelining any opponent. For over a decade, Stevenson brought home back-to-back-to-back Olympic medals between 1968-1980 and more than likely won a fourth were it not for the 1980 boycott against Moscow. Stevenson is still considered a legendary pugilist whose name is revered the world over. 

Regla Torres

Accurately referred to as the “best volleyball player of the twentieth century,” Regla Torres brought home three Olympic gold medals in the sport over the course of a decade, starting from her first appearance at the age of 17 in the 1992 games. Four years later, as she and her team returned to the world stage, they found themselves down two games in the qualifier and were considered a low-level underdog. Despite this, they made a stellar comeback, beating out Brazil in the semis and China in the finals. As if one nail-biter wasn’t enough, Regla’s return in the 2000 games found the team losing their first two sets in the finals against Russia. Through Regla’s talent and leadership, earned over years of Olympic-worthy competition, the group returned and won the gold. 

Joaquin Capilla

This decorated diver holds the title for the most Olympic gold medals won by a Mexican athlete, with two bronze, a silver, and gold, respectively. Between 1948 and 1956, the Mexican-born Capilla specialized in the 10m platform dive but also won a medal in springboard diving, proving his versatility could be easily translated between varied disciplines. His record as the most decorated Mexican athlete in the Olympics, as far as we are aware, still stands

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Featured image is from the image Hoja Suelta, by José Guadalupe Posada, 1901.
Featured image: Mexican air force Capt. Radames Gaxiola Andrade stands in front of his P-47D with his maintenance team after he returned from a combat mission. Captain Andrade was assigned to the Mexican air force's Escuadron 201. Members of the Escuadron 201 fought alongside U.S. forces during World War II.
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