The Top Ten Venezuelan athletes of all times
The Top Ten Venezuelan athletes of all times
Thinking about choosing the best ten Venezuelan athletes is a daring and complex exercise, prone to deep controversy; particularly because many of our iconic athletes never played in professional leagues or teams, or because the fundamental parameter that justifies their inclusion to this list is that only achieved feat.
Being baseball our national sport, it is only logical to suppose that most names in this Top Ten belong to players of that sport. Nevertheless, Venezuela has given great athletes of different disciplines and this makes this selection for PanamericanWorld an exquisite stroll around fields, tracks, pools, rings and stadiums, among other stages.
Surely, many important sportsmen will be left off - what probably takes us to the eye of the storm - yet, from everyone in PanamericanWorld, we would like to participate in this boldness and share your agreements or disagreements.
Francisco ''Morochito'' Rodríguez.
Morochito's moments in the ring are still alive in the memory of Venezuelans. The first gold medal than Venezuela got in the Olympic Games was conquered by Rodríguez, in Mexico 1968, after a combat in which he beat Yong-Ju Jee in the fly-weight category.
Francisco Rodríguez was born in Cumaná, and he is the second of fourteen siblings. In that glorious event that took him to the Olympic podium, he overcame four boxers. The first fight was against the Cuban Rafaell Carbonel, winning by unanimous decision. The Indian Karakaturane was also left behind by ''Morochito''. He then fought the American Harlam Marbley, who, due to an injure in one of his hands, was weaker in the ring and became prey of the Venezuelan.
The final with Jee, from South Korea, was at risk because of Rodríguez' overweight, perceived on the weighting day, caused by a jar of orange juice he had drunk the night before. After this pitfall, Rodríguez had a hard fight, but he was able to win and get the gold medal.
Luis Ernesto Aparicio.
On January 10th, 1984, the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced that, with 341 votes (84.6%) in its sixth year of eligibility, Luis Aparicio had been inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame, after an impressive 18 years career. He is the only Venezuelan in Cooperstown and he is considered by the American sport press as one of the best and fastest shortstops of all times.
At the age of 19, Aparicio started playing with the Gavilanes de Maracaibo to then play in the American minor leagues; where he wore, in 1954, the Waterloo's uniform and, in the following season, he played with the Memphis ''AA''. Later, in 1956, he joined the Chicago White Sox, to substitute another Venezuelan, Alfonso ''Chico'' Carrasquel, season in which he was named Newcomer of the Year.
Aparicio was the stolen bases leader in the American League during his first nine years (1956 - 1964), with 79% of success every time he tried to own the base. In seven seasons with the White Sox, Aparicio won five Golden Gloves. He would later join the Baltimore Orioles, where he got other two. He finished his career in the Major Leagues with the Boston Red Sox.
Altogether, he won 9 defensive recognitions, he was selected to the Sporting News All Stars teams on five occasions and ten times to Baseball Field Stars. Aparicio accredited his success to the glove he wore during the practices, which was heavier than usual, so that in the field, his own glove would seem light.
The day Aparicio was inducted to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, in the stadium Universitario de Caracas, Tigers and Lions were playing - which Tigers won, 8 runs to 7. It was almost the end of the event when the news were heard, and, spontaneously, the crowd sang the National Anthem.
Cecotto became the youngest World Champion in the history of motorcycling at the age of 19 in the 350cc category. Cecotto had already won, in 1973 and 1974, national championships, but his word fame one year later in the Daytona races.
He conquered the circuits of the 250cc category, the world title in 750cc and Daytona's 200 miles. In 1977, when the season was just starting, he had an accident that kept him away from competitions. Once he recovered, in 1978, he won the F750 title.
In 1982, Cecotto made his debut in motor racing in Formula 2, and he got Europe's silver medal. Later, he participated in the Formula 1 World Championship driving the Theodore - Cosworth, as part of the racing team of Ayrton Senna (Triple World Champion) . He competed in the F1 on eighteen occasions, getting to the sixth place of the Grand Prix of America (his best position in that category). As a BMW official pilot, in the World Tourism Championship, he won the Italian race in 1989.
At the young age of 20, Vidal became the first Venezuelan swimmer to win an Olympic Medal in the 200 metres category, butterfly style, in the Los Angeles Olympic Games 1984. The Australian Jon Sieben got the gold, with a timing of 1:57: 04; the German Michael Gross registered a timing of 1:57:40 and got the silver, while Vidal got the bronze with 1:57:51.
The timing registered by the Venezuelan athlete became a reference to the American continent until 1991.
His participation in international pools, led him to compete successfully in South - American Swimming,Championships, Bolivarian and Pan - American and Central American Games. After his retirement, Vidal became a mentor for sportsmen and managers, teaching them how to deal with self-esteem conflicts.
Since his tragic death, in 2007, the event ''A million metres to Rafael Vidal'' is held, a tribute competition where more than 100 thousand swimmers have participated, from countries like Argentina, Australia, Austria,Canada, China, Colombia, Spain, the Netherlands, Hungary, Mexico, Oman, Panama, Poland, Russia, United Kingdom, Uruguay, the United States and Venezuela.
He was the first local basketball player to step in the NBA and the first Latin American to be called ''the best basketball player of the world''. He was a member of the Venezuelan Selection that after winning the South American Championship of Nations, celebrated in Valencia, state of Carabobo, in 1991, he played in the final in the Tournament of the Americas in Portland, Oregon, against America's Dream Team.
In 1990, after finishing High School in the Jacksonville Community College and in the University of Houston he was chosen to play in the second round of the University Draft with the Miami Heat, which sold his rights to the Houston Rockets, a team he became a champion with in 1993 - 1994 and 1994 - 1995.
In 1993, he was acknowledged, by the Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanic People in the United States. By 1995, he was considered among the six best men (substitute) in the circuit.
Monacelli was the first foreign bowling player to be inducted to the Pro Bowlers Association (PBA) Hall of Fame, back in 1997, and in the United States Bowling Congress in 2012. He was also the first non - American in integrating the All American Bowling Team in 1990. He has won 19 tournaments in the PBA circuit.
Monacelli is in the sixth position of the PBA's All Time List, and he has been part of the bowling select group (integrated, among others, by Don Johnson, Mark Roth, Earl Anthony and Walter Ray Williams) since he was acknowledged as Player of the Years twice.
For two consecutive years he won the High Average Award and the High Points Leader, and he is one of the fourteen players in History to win a title in six seasons, minimum.
His life average is of 213,59 while his record in TV finals is of 62/75. In 2012 he became the first foreign player in the History of the Senior Circuit (older than 50 years-old) when he raised the Championship's Cup, in the United States Open, thanks to his triumph, in the final, over the legendary Walter Ray Williams Jr. in a duel to one line (255 - 247).
Vizquel is one of the indisputable legends of the double play in the History of the MLB and an excellent Venezuelan shortstop who conquered eleven Golden Gloves in a 24 years career.
He signed a contract with the Seattle Mariners in 1984 and he made his debut in the Major Leagues on April 3rd, 1989 in a game against The Oakland Athletics. In the Majors, he also got to wear the uniform of the Cleveland Indians, team in which he played from 1994 to 2004. He shone with the San Francisco Giants, the Texas Rangers (2009), Chicago White Sox and Toronto's Bluejays.
On May 13th, 2007, Vizquel made his double play number 1.591, breaking the absolute record that, until then, only The Wizzard of Oz, Ozzie Smith, had. In May 2008, at the age of 41, Vizquel became the Venezuelan player with more games in the Major Leagues, breaking Luis Aparicio's record. On September 6th, 2010, he played his game number 2.832, and became the Latin American player with more games in the Major Leagues.
In 2012, he would reach Mel Ott's record, by connecting his unstoppable 2.876 (home -run?) which leads him straight to the 40th position of the best hitters ever. On October 3rd, Omar retires and he becomes the oldest shortstop in playing in the Major Leagues in the last 80 years. Besides, he has a record in double-plays ( 1.731) and in seasons playing as a shortstop (23).
Summing up the career of Miguel Cabrera isn't an easy task. Let's start by saying that he won the Major Leagues' Triple Crown, in the 2012 season, an achievement that no other player had reached since 1967, when Carl Yaztremski did it with Boston's Red Sox. The day of his debut in the MLB with the then Marlins of Florida (2003), he made a home-run to pitcher Al Levine, to win the game leaving his rival on the ground, something previously done only by Billy Parker in 1971 and Joe Bard in 2003.
Miguel Cabrera became, on September 5th, 2007, the third youngest player to get to 500 batted runs, at the age of 24. Only fourteen players have had at least four seasons with a hundred home-runs in their first five years in the Majors. On April 7th, 2012, the Venezuelan reached 1000 RBI in his short career in the Major Leagues, becoming the youngest player in achieving such a record, leaving Alex Rodríguez behind.
On August 14th, 2012, he became one of the few players in History to reach this plateu before his 30th birthday. The other names in that privileged list are Hall of Fame members such as Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, and Al Simmons, apart from active players like Albert Pujols and Alex Rodríguez.
On August 15, Cabrera became the first player in Detroit Tigers history to hit 30 home runs in five consecutive seasons. This also marked the eighth time in the last nine seasons overall that Cabrera has reached the 30 home run mark.
In 2013 he became a batting Champion in the American League, for the third time, with a .384 average (a feat that didn't happen since 1970), he was second in home-runs and RBI and he was acknowledged as Most Valuable Player of the League, an award he has received for two consecutive years.
The Venezuelan karateka has won, at least once, a gold medal in every official international event of this discipline. He is the current World Champion, he has won two Premier Leagues, five times the Paris Open, four titles in the Las Vegas Open and one in the editions of the Netherlands, Italy and Austria.
He has conquered three medals in the World Games (the equivalent of the Olympic Games) and is a leader in national, South American and Pan-American Games.
After being defeated in the Australia Open in 2011, he remained unbeatable in every South American competition, such as in the Pan-American and World Games for the following two years.
''Standing up and listening to the Anthem is an indescribable emotion, or when a presenter announces a Venezuelan as the best of the World, it's a sensation that fulfils you, it makes me think that it was worth it, I only dreamed about being in the podium, I was glad just to compete'' he says.
The fencer Rubén Limardo became an Olympic Champion in the individual épée competition, giving to Venezuela its second gold medal in the history of the Olympic Games and the third in fencing in particular. Initially, Limardo was right handed and fought with foil, but after a skating accident at the age of 12, he started using his left hand (the hand he writes with) and changed the foil for the épée.
In 2003 he made it into the Tableau 16 of the épée in Paris World Cup. He would later win the silver medal in the Pan- American Games of Santo Domingo in 2003 (épée team). He was a Youth World Champion in the season 2004 - 2005 and he was also the standard bearer in the Bolivarian Games of Armenia and Pereira, 2005, at the young age of 20.
In 2013 he became a World Champion in Fencing, event held in Budapest, Hungary and this triumph, Limardo ratified his leadership in the épée world category.