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Best Latin American, Caribbean Athletes in 2016

Best Latin American, Caribbean Athletes in 2016

Posted by Miguel Ernesto on December 08, 2016

Latin America and the Caribbean lived exciting sports moments in 2016. In an Olympic year, the second time a country from the region hosts the Olympic Games, dozens of athletes delivered spectacular performances.  

PanamericanWorld proposes an approach to the top 10 Latin American and Caribbean athletes in 2016. Most of them stood out in Rio Olympic Games, although this ranking also includes other stars that, in their professional leagues, reported notable performances. Do you think there is any name missing on the list? Polemic is very welcomed.

Usain Bolt (Jamaica)

The fastest sprinter of all time strengthened his Olympic legend with another triple-win in Rio. In his last Olympic event, Usain Bolt once again showed that, even at the age of 30, he is not only the fastest man, but also the most charismatic athlete.

This time round, he didn’t break any of his world records and he wasn’t even close to his best times, but he did held his Olympic unbeatable condition. He won in 100 meter dash with 9.81 seconds, before U.S. Justin Gatlin (9.89 seconds). In 200 meters (his favorite race), he clocked 19.78 seconds; while the runner-up, Canadian Andre de Grasse — the man that seems to be ready to become king of speed, once Bolt is retired —, finished with 20.02. Bolt closed his Olympic adventure with another win in 4x100 meter relay. The strength of Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake, Nickel Ashmeade, plus Bolt’s close took Jamaica up to the top, with 37.27 seconds. In his three Olympic performances, Bolt stood unbeaten: 9 races, 9 gold medals. It couldn’t be better.

Catherine Ibargüen (Colombia)

Colombian triple jumper Catherine Ibargüen had conquered everything in the athletic universe, but the Olympic title. Her successful career was made up of two world crowns and several wins in the Diamond League. Four years ago, she finished second in London Olympic Games. She knew that Rio was her last Olympic opportunity and she took it: she won with a 15.17-meter jump. The Colombian athlete put a perfect close to 2016 with her fourth consecutive triumph in the Diamond League.

Neymar (Brazil)

Neymar’s presence helped Brazil’s soccer team obtain the only title that was missing on its shelves: the Olympic one. In the final game, against Germany, the star scored the last penalty. Moreover, while wearing Barcelona’s uniform, Neymar got a new crown in the Spanish League and the King’s Cup.

Mijain Lopez (Cuba)

The powerful Greco-Roman wrestler strengthened his position as the most complete fighter of the world, by obtaining his third Olympic gold medal in Rio, without giving a single point to his rivals. In the fight for the gold against the only rival that had defeated him in over a lustrum, Turkish Riza Kayaalp, the Cuban athlete achieved a great victory, one of the unforgettable moments in the Olympic Games.

Elaine Thompson (Jamaica)

In Rio, Jamaica proved to be the leading nation in terms of speed in athletics. Bolt was joined by a sprinter with a promising future: 24-year-old Elaine Thompson, who conquered the gold in 100-200 meter dash.

Thompson won the fastest race with 10.71 seconds, right in front of U.S. Tori Bowie (10.83); afterwards, in 200 meter dash, she pushed harder (21.78 seconds) and left favorite Dutch Dafne Schippers behind (21.88).

David Ortiz (Dominican Republic)

The best designated hitter of all time in MLB had a great season. Many people asked “Papi” Ortiz to reconsider his retirement decision, but the 40-year-old veteran held his word and walked out of active sport with a dream-like season: 38 HRs, 127 RBIs and batting average .315. Boston didn’t make in the playoff this time round, but Ortiz goes home with three world-champion rings, countless records and tremendous prestige. Within five years his name will be undoubtedly written in the Hall of Fame, Cooperstown.

Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina)

This tennis player had the best return of the year. After two seasons in which injuries stopped him from playing in the ATP circuit and dragged him down in the ranking, few people thought that Del Potro would have a successful return.

The recovery began in Rio, where the Argentinean player surprisingly defeated the world ranking leader at the moment, Novak Djokovic. He later left Spanish Rafael Nadal on the field and only lost the final against British Andy Murray. Some months later, in the final of Davis Cup, against Croatia, Del Potro led the Argentinean team that conquered its first Silver Bowl. Del Potro won two single games. His triumph against Mario Cilic is unforgettable, since he was down 2 sets – 0 and spectacularly recovered.

Paula Pareto (Argentina)

This judoka got the Olympic gold in the 48 kg division and became the first Argentinean athlete to climb to the top of the podium in this sport. Moreover, she made history because she is the only Argentinean athlete that has conquered two Olympic medals in an individual sport (she had previously won the bronze, same division, in Beijing Olympic Games, 2008).

Monica Puig (Puerto Rico)

The Puerto Rican athlete conquered in Rio the gold in tennis (single). So she wrote her name in the books as the first Olympic champion from Puerto Rico. Nobody was counting on Puig, since she was in the 37th position of WTA’s ranking before the Olympic event; however, the tennis player’s performance was great. She prevailed over players that had been initially described as favorites, such as Spanish Garbiñe Muguruza, Czech Petra Kvitova and German Angelique Kerber.

Julio Cesar La Cruz (Cuba)

This 81 kg Cuban boxer is called “The Shadow” because of his tremendous skill to hit his rivals and dodge their punches on the ring. In Rio, the three-time world champion strengthened his leadership in the division, by winning all of his fights.

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