Who knew that a Hispanic swimmer would win the first gold medal for the U.S.A. at the London Olympics?
Ryan Lochte’s mom is a Cuban immigrant and former swimmer herself. Lochte made headlines by beating swimming legend Michael Phelps to win the gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley last Saturday.
Gracing the covers of TIME, Vogue and other magazines, Lochte has become an overnight celebrity, which some critics say has become a distraction. Early this week he faltered and lost the gold to the French in the 400-meter relay and came in fourth place in the 200-meter freestyle. Lochte, who turns 28 this Friday, Aug. 3, won two gold and two bronze medals at the Beijing 2008 Olympics while Phelps won a record eight gold medals.
Lochte along with boxers Marlen Esparza and Joseph Diaz Jr. and some two dozen Latino American athletes were born in the U.S. or abroad, are naturalized citizens or the sons and daughters of parents and family from Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil and other countries.
Last week the 2012 London Olympics opened with much fanfare and a spectacular arena show for a stadium audience of 60,000 and an estimated global TV audience of 1 billion, including more than 40 million U.S. viewers for the XXX Olympiad, which will close Sunday, Aug. 12. The 530-member American Olympic team, projected to win 40 gold medals and 108 overall, are among about 10,500 athletes competing from around the world. The U.S. is represented by 268 women and 261 men competing in 25 sports and ranging in age from 15 to 54 years old. If all goes well, about two dozen Americans of Hispanic descent will help the U.S. win medals in basketball, swimming, boxing and soccer.
For 5’ 3” flyweight boxer Marlen Esparza, 22, of Mexican descent, this will be a huge opportunity. A six-time U.S National Champion from the Houston area, she holds a 69-2 record of victories or a 97 percent win rate. The 106-pound fighter is also a model for Cover Girl cosmetics. On Monday, Aug. 6, Esparza will fight the winner of the Brazil vs. Venezuela match.
The U.S. will compete against 11 other nations for the gold in basketball and some commentators compare this year’s team to the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. This year’s team boasts some of the world’s best including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and former Nuggets player and current New York Knicks 28-year-old forward Carmelo “Melo” Anthony. This will be the third trip to the Olympics for Melo, who won a bronze and a gold medal at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, respectively. Anthony’s father is Puerto Rican and he honors his island heritage with a Puerto Rican flag tattoo on his right hand.
The high hopes for the men’s gymnastics team evaporated this week when the team failed to medal, placing in 5th place. China took gold, with Japan and Great Britain earning silver and bronze, respectively. The U.S. team has not won a men’s gymnastics Gold since 1984. The men’s gymnastic team was led by John Orozco and Danell Leyva who posted outstanding results in qualifying events. Native New Yorker Orozco, 19, is the 5’5”, 156-lb. son of Puerto Rican parents and is the 2012 Visa National Champion. Cuban-born Leyva will have another chance to earn a medal Tuesday, Aug. 7 on the horizontal bars.
For more information on the Olympic schedule visit: www.london2012.com, www.nbcolympics.com and www.teamusa.org.