Sports in Puerto Rico


Sports in Puerto Rico

Sports in Puerto Rico can be traced from the ceremonial competitions amongst the pre-Columbian Native Americans of the Arawak also known as Taíno tribes which inhabited the island to the modern era in which sports activities consist of an organized physical activity or skill carried out with a recreational purpose for competition.

Brief history of sports in Puerto Rico

Pre-Columbian era

The Taínos who inhabited Puerto Rico before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, played a series of games which were both ceremonial and diversional, such as races, contests involving body strength and fishing. However, the two most important of these sports were the simulated warrior fights (similar to the gladiators) and ball playing. The ball game was played in a field, which they called "Batey", situated in the middle of the village. The fields were either shaped like a triangle or like a "U". The ball was made of vegetable leafs, which gave it flexibility. Two teams played against each other. The objective of the game was to keep the ball in constant motion. The players were allowed to use their heads, elbows, shoulders and knees. The team would lose a point, if for any reason the ball stopped moving. The score was kept with a mark on the ground and the game would end after the losing team received a certain amount of points. The winners were treated like heroes and the losers were sacrificed. The game had changed by the time the first Spanish settlers arrived. According to Fray Bartolome de las Casas the game was played in the following manner: "One team served the ball and the other team returned it, using anything but the hands. If the ball arrived at shoulder height, it was returned like lightning. When it came in near the ground, the player rapidly hit the ground, striking the ball with his buttocks. Play continued from side to side until an error was made." In 1975, archaeologists from the Guaynia Society of Archeology and History at the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, members of the Archeological Society of the Southwest announced the discovery of the ruins of a "Batey" in an area called Tibes, on the outskirts of the city of Ponce. A total of 9 ball fields were discovered under thick forest overgrowth dating back to AD 25 in the area which is now known as "Centro Ceremonial Indigena de Tibes" (The Tibes Indigenoius Ceremonial Center). The site is now a tourist attraction and is open to the public. Artifacts found on the site are on display and can be seen in a museum on the site and in the Ponce Museum of Art.inote| ref: http://ponce.inter.edu/tibes/ingles/historia.html

panish colonization

The Taínos suffered greatly during the Spanish colonization of Puerto Rico in the 15th century. Many died from the cruel treatment and disease inflicted upon them and their culture was destroyed. The first Spaniards to inhabit the island were soldiers (Conquistadores), later they were followed by farmers, miners and their families. Team sports were virtually unheard of however, there were other types of competitions and sports in which they participated. The most common sports were horse racing, cockfighting and dominoes. The first horse track was built in San Juan in 1887. One of the most popular sports was "Boliche". The men would gather in the town plaza and roll a small ball made of wood with the objective of knocking down pins. "Boliche" was similar to Bowling. Another popular sport was bullfighting, which was limited to the larger cities of Ponce and San Juan.

Modern era

Puerto Rico in the Olympics Games

Puerto Rico participates in the Olympics as an independent nation and therefore Puerto Rican athletes have the option of either representing Puerto Rico or the United States in the games. Some, such as Gigi Fernandez in tennis, have won gold medals for the U.S.

The 1948 Summer Olympics celebrated in London, was a historical one for Puerto Rico because it was the first time that the island would participate as a nation in a major international sporting event. The island's delegation consisted of only three members, two of which finished among the ten best in pole vault. [cite web| url=http://www.primerahora.com/noticia/otros_accion/accion_deportiva/eran_otros_tiempos/215093| title=Eran otros tiempos| author=Alex Figueroa Cancel| publisher="Primera Hora"| language=Spanish| date=2008-07-30| accessdate=2008-07-31] In their regional participations, the Puerto Ricans had carried the United States flag into the games. [cite web| url=http://www.primerahora.com/noticia/otros_accion/accion_deportiva/60_anos_de_olimpismo_boricua/214804| title=60 años de olimpismo boricua| author=Alex Figueroa Cancel| publisher="Primera Hora"| language=Spanish| date=2008-07-29| accessdate=2008-07-31] The United States protested, claiming that two nations could not use the same flag at the same time. The decree of Commonwealth on July 25, 1952 would give the Puerto Rican delegation a flag of their own.

In 1980, the United States boycotted the Olympic Games celebrated in Moscow, Russia. German Rieckehoff, who was then the president of the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee, was against the boycott because he believed that politics should not get involved with sporting events. He was, therefore, denied economic support from the local government. Rieckehoff did however, manage to send one athlete to represent Puerto Rico in boxing, Alberto Mercado, who became the only American citizen to participate in the 1980 Olympics.

In 1982, the Government of Puerto Rico, headed by then governor Carlos Romero Barceló, withheld economic support from the athletic delegation headed to Cuba, where the Central American and Caribbean Games were going to be held. The Puerto Rican Olympic Committee, under the leadership of Rieckehoff, had to appeal directly to the people for donations and were able to send the delegation. The Puerto Rican Olympic Committee is also the organization in charge of selecting the Puerto Rican athletes which represent the island in the Pan American Games and the Central American and Caribbeann Games.

Puerto Rico at the Paralympic Games

Puerto Rico debuted in the Paralympic Games on 1988.cite web| url=http://www.nydailynews.com/latino/espanol/2008/08/21/2008-08-21_lista_la_delegacin_boricua_de_los_paralm.html| title=Lista la delegación boricua de los paralímpicos| publisher="Daily News"| language=Spanish| date=2008-09-21| accessdate=2008-09-07] In this event, Isabel Bustamante was awarded the first medals for the delegation, winning one gold and two silver medals in athletics. In the 2000 Summer Paralympics, Alexis Pizarro became the first male athlete to win a medal for Puerto Rico, reaching bronze in athletics. Pizarro repeated this performance in the 2004 Summer Paralympics.

On August 20, 2008, David Bernier awarded the flag of Puerto Rico to Nilda Gómez, who was selected to be the flag bearer in the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Paralympics. [cite web| url=http://www.primerahora.com/noticia/otros/acciondeportiva/abanderan_atletas_que_participaran_en_juegos_paralimpicos/221495| title=Abanderan atletas que participarán en Juegos Paralímpicos| author=Omar Marrero| publisher="Primera Hora"| language=Spanish| date=2008-08-20| accessdate=2008-09-07] Three athletes that registered A-marks attended the ceremony, which also included Alexis Pizarro in athletics and Julio Reguero in sailing. Puerto Rico’s first medal in this edition of the Paralympics was won by Gómez, who won bronze in rifle shooting.cite web| url=http://www.primerahora.com/noticia/otros/acciondeportiva/la_boricua_nilda_gomez_gana_bronce_en_los_juegos_paralimpicos/227561| title=La boricua Nilda Gómez gana bronce en los Juegos Paralímpicos| publisher="Primera Hora"| language=Spanish| date=2008-09-07| accessdate=20008-09-07] She won bronze in the 10-meter trial, finishing with 489 points.

Puerto Rico at the Special Olympics

Puerto Rico's Special Olympics program was founded in 1970, since then it has offered services to more than a thousand athlethes.

In the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games, Puerto Rico won 57 medals.cite web| url=http://vocero.com/noticias.asp?s=Deportes&n=76654| archiveurl=http://web.archive.org/web/20071011102902/http://vocero.com/noticias.asp?s=Deportes&n=76654| title=Tito Trinidad, Nestlé y Grande, aliados de Olimpiadas Especiales| publisher="El Vocero"| language=Spanish| archivedate=2007-10-11| accessdate=2008-09-07]

Puerto Rico won a total of 34 medals in the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games, including 7 gold, 18 silver and 9 bronze medals. Due to the team's performance, the Senate of Puerto Rico organized an ceremony where the athlethes and trainers received recognitions. [cite web| url=http://www.senadopr.us/verfoto.asp?p=134UPCbPEUhMM&g=5KF2QE4KWCB&page=5| title=Senado Reconoce Atletas Participantes De Las Olimpiadas Especiales En Shangai| publisher=Senate of Puerto Rico| language=Spanish| accessdate=2008-09-07]

Distribution and practice among sports

Baseball

During the late 19th century Puerto Rico was to witness the introduction of organized team sports. The game of baseball was first introduced to the island by a group of Puerto Ricans and Cubans who had learned the game in the United States. At first the sport was not well received by the local press and general public, it was looked upon as a silly game. The first two baseball clubs were founded in 1897. They were the Almendares Baseball Club, owned by Francisco Alamo Armas and the Borinquen Baseball Club owned by Santos Filippi.

According to the daily newspaper "El Pais", on January 11, 1898, the first organized baseball game was played in Puerto Rico at the old velodrome which was located at the Pda.15 in Santurce, San Juan. The Borinquen team beat the Almendares with a score of 3 to 0. The first game to go a complete nine innings was played on January 30, 1898 and the Borinquen once again beat the Almendares with a score of 9 to 3.

Puerto Rico became an American territory when the United States defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War. The American soldiers stationed in Puerto Rico were permitted to organize a baseball club to play against the local clubs as diversional outlet. On November 4, 1900 the Almendares Baseball Club composed of Puerto Ricans and Cubans beat the American Baseball Club of the Second Regiment of Infantry with a score of 32 to 18.

Basketball and Boxing

The military government banned cockfighting and bullfighting from the island but introduced the sport of boxing and a "new" sport called basketball. Both boxing and basketball were used by the soldiers as part of their physical training. Boxing competitions amongst the soldiers were open to the public. The first boxing match in Puerto Rico was held on January 15, 1899.

When the soldiers played basketball, they would use a plain straw basket which was cut open at both ends and place it on the highest end of a pole. For a ball, they used a football and the game was played without any established set of rules.

In 1913, the YMCA of Puerto Rico oraganized the first game played using the official rules of basketball and in 1916, the YMCA organized the first basketball tournament. Teams formed in the other YMCA's in the island participated in the tournament. The first basketball organization in Puerto Rico was the San Juan Basketball League. Río Piedras and Bayamón later followed and formed their own leagues.

American football (NFL)

Although not a popular sport in Puerto Rico, American football nonetheless is played in the streets of the Caribbean island occasionally.

Ron Rivera became the first Puerto Rican to play in the NFL when he played for the Chicago Bears in the 1980s. In 1986, Rivera became the first Puerto Rican to win a Super Bowl championship ring.

Other Puerto Ricans who have played in the NFL are O.J. Santiago of the Atlanta Falcons, Marco Rivera who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys and who in 2002 became the first Puerto Rican to play in the Pro Bowl as a member of the Green Bay Packers (the first of three appearances) and Glenn Martinez who in 2005 played for the Detroit LionsKen Amato who currently (2007) plays for the Tennessee Titans is of Puerto Rican descent.

Baseball

Puerto Rico has a winter baseball league named the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League that has operated since the early 20th century. The champion of the Puerto Rico league represents Puerto Rico is in the annual Caribbean World Series. It currently has six teams:

*Lobos de Arecibo (Arecibo "Wolves")
*Criollos de Caguas (Caguas "Creoles")
*Gigantes de Carolina (Carolina "Giants")
*Indios de Mayagüez (Mayagüez "Indians")
*Leones de Ponce (Ponce "Lions")
*Atenienses de Manatí (Manatí "Athenians")

Puerto Rico has over 100 Major League Baseball players who are currently active, in addition to the hundreds others who have participated in the past. These facts combine to make baseball one of the most popular sports in the island.

Some of the most famous baseball players from Puerto Rico include: Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Alomar, Jose "Cheo" Cruz, Juan González, Edgar Martínez, Iván Rodríguez, Victor Pellot, and Bernie Williams.

Chronological order of major events
* On January 11 1898 the first organized baseball game is played in Puerto Rico between the Borinquen team and the Almendares team. The Borinquen won 3 to 0.
* In 1928, Emilio "Millito" Navarro of the Cuban Stars became the first Puerto Rican to play in the Negro Leagues
* In 1942, Hiram Bithorn of the Chicago Cubs became the first Puerto Rican to play in the major leagues.
* In 1949, Luis Olmo ("El "Jíbaro" Olmos") of the Brooklyn Dodgers became the first Puerto Rican to play in a World Series game and the first one to hit a home run and to get three hits, in the same game.
* In 1951, Puerto Rico won its first and only Baseball World Cup.
* In 1954, Rubén Gómez of the New York Giants became the first Puerto Rican to pitch in a World Series game and the first one to receive a World Series championship ring.
* In 1971, Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates became the first Hispanic to reach 3,000 hits and the first Puerto Rican to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
* In 1984, Willie Hernandez of the Detroit Tigers became the first Puerto Rican to win both the AL Cy Young Award and the AL MVP Award.
* In 1992, Jose "Cheo" Cruz was honored by the Houston Astros when his #25 was retired by the team.
* In 1999, Orlando "Peruchin" Cepeda became the second Puerto Rican enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
* In 2001, Major League Baseball history was made when Opening Day was in San Juan at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium with a game between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays.
* In 2003 as well as 2004, the former Montreal Expos played 22 home games each year at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, before moving to Washington, DC and becoming the Washington Nationals.

Basketball

Basketball is also a very popular sport in Puerto Rico, thanks in part to the BSN, which has been around since the 1930s. During the early 1980s, with many games shown on television, the sport's popularity increased. Street basketball is popular among Puerto Rico's youth. There is also a women's professional league, which is affiliated to the BSN.

Alfred "Butch" Lee, a member of the 1976 Olympic basketball team, became the first Puerto Rican in the NBA when in 1978 he was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks. Jose Ortiz was signed by the Utah Jazz in 1988. Rivas followed him two weeks later, being signed by the Boston Celtics. Ramos was signed by the Portland Trail Blazers, but he never played because of a life changing accident. Arroyo played for the Orlando Magic and now plays for the Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C., and Santiago used to play for the Phoenix Suns and then with the Milwaukee Bucks.

In 1988, Dick Versace, became the first person of Puerto Rican descent to coach an NBA team. He was the head coach of the Indiana Pacers from 1988 to 1990.

Puerto Rico's national basketball team has reached the Olympic Games multiple times, including the Athens games in 2004, where they became the first team to defeat the United States Dream Team during Olympic competition. Puerto Rico's national team has won gold medals in other international competitions.

Bobsled

Puerto Rico had a Bobsled team in the 1992, 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics.

Boxing

Boxing has, for many years, disputed the top spot for the Puerto Rican fan's favorite sport with Baseball and Basketball. Puerto Ricans have distinguished themselves both as amateurs and professionals. Puerto Rico has also been the site of many championship fights.

Boxing in the Olympics

In 1948, boxer Juan Evangelista Venegas earned Puerto Rico's first Olympic medal, finishing his participation in London with a bronze medal that year. Subsequently, Puerto Rico has earned five more medals in Olympic boxing, including a silver one by Luis Ortiz in 1984. That silver medal is the only silver medal ever won by any Puerto Rican at Olympic Games. Although he did not win a medal, Alberto Mercado became, in 1980, the only American citizen to actually participate in the Moscow Olympics.

Professional Boxing

There are seven Puerto Ricans in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, they are Puerto Rico's first world champion Sixto Escobar, Wilfred Benitez (The youngest champion in boxing's history) who as of May 23, 1981 became the youngest three-time world champion after knocking out World Junior Middleweight champion Maurice Hope, Wilfredo Gómez, Carlos Ortiz, Edwin Rosario, Pedro Montanez and Jose Chegui Torres.

Other boxers from Puerto Rico which have become famous include: Hector Macho Camacho, Alfredo Escalera, Belinda Laracuente, John Ruiz who made history by becoming boxing's first Latin American world Heavyweight champion ever, after beating WBA world champ Evander Holyfield, Alex Sanchez, Samuel Serrano, Félix Trinidad, Ada Velez, who is the first Puerto Rican Women's boxing world champion and Miguel Cotto.

In 2006, Puerto Rican Miguel Santana made boxing history by becoming the fighter who waited the longest after a title bout to find out he had become a world champion boxer. The IBF recognized Santana as a world Lightweight champion 18 years after his challenge of IBF Lightweight champion Greg Haugen, who originally beat Santana by an eleventh round technical decision.

Among the international boxers who fought in Puerto Rico in a title bout are Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran, and Alexis Arguello. The 1970s became known in Puerto Rico as "the golden era of Borinquen's (Puerto Rico's) Boxing".

Cockfights

Unlike in most states of the United States, cockfighting is legal in Puerto Rico, and there are many places that draw large crowds to see bantams fighting every weekend. Is known as the Gentlemans Sport due to the common practice of wagers being a verbal contract between two individuals and may range from $1 to thousands of dollars. Across the world, Puerto Rico has been seen as the largest capital for the controversial sport, as it is incredibly popular and often televised as other sports are. Roosters are specially bred to fight, first entering the ring between one and two years of age.

Equestrian

The sport of Equestrianism has certain popularity in Puerto Rico, more so among members of higher classes. Puerto Rico frequently sends contestants to different international tournaments, such as the Olympics. On August 16, 2003, Mark Watringl from the town of Aguadilla, represented the United States in the Pan American Games celebrated in the Dominican Republic. The he won the "Gold Medal" with a final total of 13.66 penalties compared to the 21.87 posted by Mexico. When presented the Gold Medal, Mark unfurled and waved the Puerto Rican Flag. This win secured a berth in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Mark represented Puerto Rico in the 2004 Olympics celebrated in Athens, Greece.

Fencing

Fencing in Puerto Rico has become popular ever since David "Kike" Bernier, Victor Bernier and the brothers Jonathan and Marcos Peña have won medals in the 2003 Pan American Games celebrated in the Dominican Republic.

Mirthescka Escanellas was also a popular Puerto Rican fencer. She participated at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, among many other international events.

Golf

While golf is not very popular in Puerto Rico, there are many golf courses across the island.

The most famous Puerto Rican golfer is Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodríguez who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992. Rodríguez used to put his hat over the hole whenever he made a birdie or eagle. After he heard that other golfers were complaining about his little act, he decided to try something new. Chi-Chi developed his signature "toreador dance", where he would make believe that the birdie was a "bull" and that his putter was a "sword" and he would terminate the "bull". Rodríguez represented Puerto Rico on 12 World Cup teams. In 1986, he won the Hispanic Recognition Award. In 1988, he was named Replica's Hispanic Man of the Year.

Horse racing

Horse Racing is a sport which was first introduced to Puerto Rico by the Conquitadores. Horse Races continue to be a very popular sport in Puerto Rico til this day. During the earlier part of the 20th. century, races were held at "El Comandante" race track. Since 1972, "El Nuevo Comandante" now called "Hipodromo Camarero", in Canovanas, has been the home of Puerto Rico's Sunday horse races, and of the annual "Clasico del Caribe", a race that reunites important horses from many countries.

Famous jockeys include J. A. Garcia and U.S. Racing Hall of Fame member, Angel Cordero, Jr. Cordero is one of the leading thoroughbred horse racing jockeys of all time in terms of wins. He was the first and only Puerto Rican jockey to win all three of the American Classic Races races which consist of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Two of the most famous horses in Puerto Rican history were Camarero (world record holder for consecutive wins, Bold Forbes (1976 Kentucky Derby winner) and several Clasico del Caribe winners.

Road Races

Road races have long been a part of Puerto Rico's sporting tradition. Many important races are run annually in the island, including the "Maraton de San Blas" in Coamo, long considered one of the most important half marathon races in the world.

The World's Best 10K (WB10K), also known as "Maratón Teodoro Moscoso", is a road race of 10 kilometers celebrated in San Juan, Puerto Rico every year. It is certified by the Association of International Marathons and Road Races (AIMS) and by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF). The event was also the first race transmitted live through the Internet, with audio, video and results. WB10K was ranked among the 20 most competitive races in the world.

Famous marathon runners include: Jorge “Peco” Gonzalez, Hunga Maldonado.

Martial arts

Martial arts sports, specially karate, have had a marked ascent in popularity in Puerto Rico since the 1970s, when Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies were very popular among Puerto Rico's youth.

Taekwondo Past and Present Athletes
*Christian Claudio – Puerto Rican Olympic Team Member, Author, Public Speaker, Co-Founder Pac Banc Mortgage

Professional wrestling

Professional wrestling has enjoyed much popularity in Puerto Rico for a long time. Matches have been televised since the 1960s, and multiple, non televised matches are held each week across the island. World Wrestling Council is the main wrestling promoter in Puerto Rico.

Famous Puerto Rican wrestlers have included Barrabas, Carlos Colon and his son, Carlitos Colon, "Los Invaders", Savio Vega, WWF* Hall of Famer Pedro Morales, and "Los Super Medicos". In addition, many World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE, formerly WWF) stars, such as Randy Savage, and Ric Flair fought in Puerto Rico before.

Women's wrestling has been gaining popularity in Puerto Rico since the 1990s.

ailing

Sailing as a sport has picked up in popularity in Puerto Rico since the middle 1990s, under the leadership of Enrique Figueroa and his wife, Carla Malatrasi. The pair have combined to win many international medals, and they competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Figueroa also participated at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. On February 2, 2004, Figueroa and fellow teammate Jorge Hernandez, won the Olympic Games Rolex Regatta. They were named champions by topping 29 entries in the tornado fleet. The regatta winners had their sights set on the 2004 Olympics and Partalympic Games in Athens, Greece. 503 sailors participated with a fleet of 323 boats representing 39 nations. Figueroa went to the 2004 Olympic Games and represented Puerto Rico.

occer, a.k.a. Football and Fútbol

:"Football, also known as soccer refers to "Association Football", known in Spanish as "fútbol"Football, unlike many of the Latin American countries, mainly because of the high American culture influence on the Island, did not enjoy high popularity during the 20th century. But since the new millennium it has slowly increased its fan base on the island. Puerto Rico has a FIFA sponsored federation, the Federación Puertorriqueña de Fútbol and a Senior National Team which is ranked 146 by FIFA. Puerto Rico has only made it as far as the second round or regional play for a World Cup Qualifier, this was in 2008 when it beat Dominican Republic 1:0 in the first round and lost against Honduras in the second round with a aggregate score of 6:2. Current federation president

Puerto Rico currently has a professional league called the Puerto Rico Soccer League which was founded in 2008 and is composed of 8 teams. Its also has the Puerto Rico Islanders, which play in the USL First Division, the second tier of the American Soccer Pyramid.

Well know local Puerto Rican soccer players are Marco Velez, Alexis Rivera Curet, Andrés Cabrero, there are several other Puerto Rican players or players of Puerto Rican decent playing abroad in places like Germany and the USA.

Felix Magath, whose mother is German, is the first person of Puerto Rican descent to play in the FIFA World Cup representing Germany in 1982 and 1986.

oftball

Women's softball has enjoyed certain popularity in Puerto Rico. The women's national softball team has won many international events and participated at many Olympics.

Lisa Fernandez has represented the United States as member of the U.S. Women's Olympic Softball Team, winning gold medals in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia and in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. She established a women's softball record when she struck out 25 members of the women's Australian Olympic Softball Team. Ivelisse Echevarria who in 2003 was inducted into the International Softball Federation Hall of Fame is also considered by many to be the greatest pitcher born in Puerto Rico. Ten Puerto Ricans have been inducted into the International Softball Federation Hall of Fame so far.

The ten Puerto Ricans in International Softball Federation Hall of Fame are: Juan Pachot, Carlos Velazquez Class of 1997; Ismael "Chavalillo" Delgado, Jorge Tanco, Alejandro "Junior" Cruz Class of 1993 and Ivelisse Echevarria, Betty Segarra, Clara Vazquez, Jose "Tuto" Agosto, Rafi Serrano Class of 2003.

wimming (competitive)

Jesus "Jesse" Vassallo, is considered by many to be the greatest swimmer to have been born in Puerto Rico. In 1997, he became the first and so far the only Puerto Rican to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He currently heads the Puerto Rico Swimming Federation.

In 1966, 17-year-old Anita Lallande set a new record in the Central American and Caribbean Games celebrated in San Juan, when she won a total of 10 gold medals.

Fernando J. Canales was a 100 meter freestyle finalist in the 1978 Berlin World Championships, earning a 5th place. He was the "first" Puerto Rican swimmer to final in the World Championships. He earned 5 gold medals and 1 silver medal during the 1978 Central American Championships in Medellín, Colombia. He became the first Puerto Rican to medal in the Pan American Games by winning silver in the 100 meters free in 1979 (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and repeating that feat in 1983 (Caracas, Venezuela).

Maritza Correia, is the first black Puerto Rican woman in history to make the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team. She earned a silver medal swimming prelims of the 4oom free relay at the 2004 Olympic Games celebrated in Athens, Greece.

Years after the demolition of the Escambrón Swimming Complex, San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini will open the new roofed San Juan Natatorium, developed by San Juan Sports Director María Elena Batista, herself a former Olympic Swimmer. The official opening of the San Juan Natatorium was December 15, 2006. A second natatorium is scheduled to open in time for the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games in Mayagüez.

Tennis

Tennis is not very popular as a fan sport in Puerto Rico, however, many Puerto Ricans practice it as a means of exercise. It should be noted, though, that the 1984 television match between Martina Navratilova and Gigi Fernandez was one of the most watched events of the year in Puerto Rican television. Gigi Fernandez is arguably Puerto Rico's most famous tennis player ever, having won doubles championships in Grand Slam tournaments, including Wimbledon, winning gold medals for the USA doubles team in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, being ranked no. 1 in the world for women's doubles tournaments, and being ranked among the top 30 singles players for most of her career. She is widely considered to be one of the greatest doubles players of all time.

Kristina Brandi is the first Puerto Rican tennis player to win an Olympic tennis match representing Puerto Rico. Brandi represented Puerto Rico in the 2004 Olympics, celebrated in Athens, Greece, where she beat Jelena Kostanic from Croatia (7-5 and 6-1).

Charlie Pasarell was another noted Puerto Rican Tennis player, having defeated Pancho Gonzalez in one of Wimbledon's most famous games ever. Rafael Jordan was a player that many considered had potential to become a men's professional tour champion, but he died after an automobile accident during the mid 1990s.

Track and Field

Track and Field has been another sport of note in Puerto Rico. Most schools there base their field days only on track and field events. Many Puerto Rican runners, hurlers and throwers have participated at the Olympics.

Famous Puerto Rican track and fielders include: Rebekah Colberg and Angelita Lind.

Rebekah Colberg, also known as "The Mother of Women's Sports in Puerto Rico", from 1932-1946, for fourteen consecutive years was Puerto Rico's tennis champion. In 1938, she won two gold medals at the IV Centroamerican and Caribbean Games, celebrated in Panama, in the discus and javelin events. In 1946, when the games were celebrated in Mexico, she won a gold medal in softball. While studying for her Masters Degree at Columbia University, she was in the university's field hockey and lacrosse championship teams. She was also a member of the undefeated women's basketball team of the University of Mexico.

Angelita, known as "The Angel of Puerto Rico", has represented the island and participated in three Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC) and won two gold medals, three silver medals and one bronze medal. She also participated in three Pan American Games and in the 1984 Olympics celebrated in Los Angeles, California.

Volleyball

Puerto Rico's Volleyball Federation was founded in 1958, the first men's tournament organized was the 'Torneo Preolimpico'. The federation's first president was Jose L. Purcell. Ten years later the Women's League was established.

Long considered the dormant sport among major sports in Puerto Rico, Volleyball has enjoyed much popularity since the 1990s, both in its professional and beach volleyball versions. Puerto Rico's "Liga Superior de Voleibol" has thrived in recent years, both in the men's and women's tournaments.

In 1970, most of Puerto Rico's national women's volleyball team's members were killed when a plane that was flying them to San Juan from the Dominican Republic crashed shortly after take-off.

In 1997, debut of foreign player in Women League. The most dominated are Laura Salinas from Monterrey, Mexico, lead the Mexican national team to several international competition. The foreign player debut in Men's League in 2000.

Some of Puerto Rico's famous volleyball players are Willie De Jesus, Raul Papaleo and Héctor Soto. Papaleo and Ramón 'Monchito' Hernández participated in 2004 Olympic Games in Athens in Beach Volleyball, first ever volleyball team in the Island Olympic history.

Hector "Picky" Soto is the first Latin American player that has led the scoring in the World Championship's history. Soto won the Best Scorer award in 2006 FIVB World Championship in Japan and 2007 FIVB World Cup in Japan. During the World Cup, he scored 43 point against Korea, in the process establishing a scoring record. Outside of his international performance, Soto has played in the professional leagues of Italy, Tunisia, Japan and Russia.

ee also

*List of famous Puerto Ricans - Sports
*List of Puerto Rico-related topics
*World's Best 10K (Maratón Teodoro Moscoso)
*International Wrestling Association
*World Wrestling Council

References

External links

* [http://www.olimpur.com/ Comite Olímpico de Puerto Rico]
* [http://www.fpvoleibol.com Federación Puertorriqueña de Voleibol]
* [http://www.sportingpulse.com/assoc_page.cgi?assoc=3231&pID=11 Federacion de Baloncesto de Puerto Rico]
* [http://fpba.tripod.com/ Federación Puertorriqueña de Boxeo Aficionado]
* [http://www.fedefutbolpr.com/default.html Federación Puertorriqueña de Fútbol]


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