As 2016 comes to a close, it’s been a year that many would like to forget.
We lost many prominent, impactful people not only in the world of sports but from culture, entertainment, political and more. While some were controversial or reviled (Fidel Castro), others were simply heartbreaking (Chapecoense).
To try and sort through all of the key Latino stories of this past year would probably take us halfway through 2017. That’s why I’d like to take the focus on one specific segment of Latinos to determine my choice for Latino of the Year.
A little background: Earlier this year, I decided to do something new on Twitter. I created a hashtag titled #LatinasInSports. The goal of the hashtag was to highlight an oft-overlooked group in sports: Latinas.
Whether it’s a result of chauvinistic cultures or lack of resources and support, coverage of Latinas involved in sports has been miniscule by mainstream and non-mainstream sports media. Even when they do receive coverage, rarely is their heritage mentioned.
There were some amazing achievements this year by Latinas. One only need look at the recent Rio Olympics to see Latina names headlining sports news coverage from the games. Names like Laurie Hernandez (USA - gymnastics) and Rafaela Silva (Brazil - judo) burst onto the scene with noteworthy performances. Mariana Pajon (Colombia) continued to reign as queen of BMX.
It was a sight to behold seeing people, non-Latinos, talking/tweeting/posting about these amazing ladies. But only one name made an entire country - and some parts of the United States, too - come to a complete halt.
Our Sporting Nation Latino of the Year is a Latina who did just that: Monica Puig.
For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, the Puerto Rican flag was raised for a gold medal winner, Puig in women's singles tennis. The Puerto Rican anthem played for the nation’s first ever gold medalist.
As a non-Puerto Rican - although some have thought I'm Boricua - I cried. This young lady played lights-out tennis. Having watched tennis for the better part of 30 years, I’d seen Puig play before, but nothing like in Rio.
She didn’t let the pressure consume her like I’d seen in the past. Puig was focused and resolute.
Facing the likes of Grand Slam winners Petra Kvitova, Garbiñe Muguruza and Angelique Kerber, she played with confidence - completely unintimidated by her competition. With each win, the nation’shopes grew until that final match point.
Her win touched off celebrations the likes of which Puerto Rico might never have seen.
One athlete. One name. One nation. ¡Historia!
Monica Puig is our Latino --LATINA -- of the Year.