A laurel crown atop their heads, a golden metal disk hanging from their necks -- the Olympians. No, not Gods. Yet some seem to have had the divine strength and endurance of the mightiest Titans. They defied limits and redefined history.
In 1896 the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece, the very city that had given birth to them in ancient times. Fourteen nations gathered to participate but the first athlete to make his mark represented the stars and stripes of the United States. James Connolly, the first modern Olympic champion, had won in the triple jump.
It wasn't until four years later, at the 1900 Paris Olympic Games, that the first Latino Olympian was decorated for his skill in -- wait for it -- fencing. That's right. A well earned touché to Cuba's Ramón Fonst for winning the Gold in a sport that originated on the host country's soil. Fonst may have been the first Latino Olympian Great, but he surely wasn't the last. Here are some of the best Latino athletes the Olympic Games have seen.
RELIVE THE LEGENDARY MOMENTS WITH THESE PHOTOS AND VIDEOS OF LATINO OLYMPIC GREATS:
Cuba: Ramón "El Nunca Segundo" Fonst Segundo
At the 1900 Paris Olympics, 17-year-old Fonst won the gold in Fencing and became the first ever Latin-American to win a medal at the games. The Cuban athlete went on to win three more gold medals at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics in Men's Foil (Individual), Men's Foil (Team) and Men's Épée (Individual).
Cuba: Alberto "El Caballo" Juantorena
At the 1976 Montréal Olympics, with his renowned nine yard stride, Juantorena became the first runner to win the gold in both the 400 meter and 800 meter races within the same Olympic Games. Considered an impressive feat since <a href="http://www.olympic.org/alberto-juantorena" target="_hplink">one is a sprint while the other is a tactical middle-distance race</a>. The Cuban athlete was voted World Athlete of the Year in 1976 and 1977.
Panama: Irving Saladino
Panama's first and only Olympic gold medalist. Saladino won the coveted medal in the Long Jump event at the 2008 Beijing games with a 8.34 meter jump. He became the 2007 World Champion at Osaka by overcoming Italian Long Jumper Andrew Howe in his last jump (see video).
Ecuador: Jefferson Pérez
Pérez won Ecuador's first gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games for the Men's 20 Km Walk. The South American athlete set the world record for walking at the 2003 World Championships in Paris with a time of 1:17:21. In 2007, he became the first man to win three consecutive world titles for the 20 Km race. Pérez is also a three time gold medalist for the 20 Km race at the Pan American Games (1995, 2003, 2007) and a Silver medal holder for the same event at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games--the last before his retirement.
Cuba: Teófilo Stevenson Laurence
Considered by many to have been the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time--something the athlete was never able to prove due Cuba's rules against its athletes competing professionally. He was one of three men to win three olympic gold medals in boxing, (1972, 1976, 1980) Hungary's László Papp and Cuba's Félix Savón being the other two. For years American promoters offerred Stevenson money to fight against professionals like Mohammed Ali. The Cuban repeatedly declined the offers, famously stating: <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2012-06-11/americas/world_americas_cuba-boxer-teofilo-stevenson-obit_1_teofilo-stevenson-cuban-athletes-cuban-boxing-legend?_s=PM:AMERICAS" target="_hplink">"What is $1 million compared to the love of 8 million Cubans?"</a> In June 2012, the boxer passed away at the age of 60.
Cuba: Félix Savón Fabré
Frequently compared to his countryman Teófilo Stevenson, Savón was also able to win three Olympic gold medals (1992, 1996, 2000) in boxing. Some believe he might have won a fourth medal if Cuba had not boycotted the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. As a Cuban native, the athlete was likewise unable to compete professionally, nevertheless he is the only boxer to win six successive amateur world titles.
Brazil: Adhemar Ferreira da Silva
At the 1952 Olympic Games in Finland, da Silva won the gold in the Triple Jump event--a feat he repeated at the 1956 Melbourne games. Though he began his Olympic debut in 1948 by placing eighth in the event, da Silva broke the 14 year-old world record for the triple jump (set by Naoto Tajima) two years later. In Finland, he broke his own record twice, winning the gold with a 16.22m jump.
Brazil: Torben "Turbine" Grael
Two gold, one silver, and two bronze make Grael the sailor with the most Olympic medals for Sailing in the world. His first gold was achieved at the 1996 Atlanta Games, the second in Athens during the 2004 games. Grael has four World Championship titles and in 2008-2009 he and his crew (the Ericsson 4 team) won the Volvo Ocean Race, a nine month long yacht race around the world.
U.S.A: Dara Torres
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Torres became the oldest swimmer to ever compete. With 12 medals (4 Gold, 4 Silver, 4 Bronze) spread throughout 5 Olympic games starting in 1984, the athlete--born to a Cuban father--holds the longest successful career as an Olympic swimmer. When she wasn't competing as an Olympian, Torres appears on several networks as a commentator as well as became the first female athlete to be apart of the <em>Sports Illustrated's</em> Swimsuit issue.
U.S.A: Pablo Morales
Son to Cuban Immigrants, Morales made history at the 1984 Olympic Trials by setting the world record in the 100 meters butterfly event. In Los Angeles, he and his teammates won the gold and set the world record in the 4 x 100 meters medley relay with a time of 3:39.30. That same year he was named World Swimmer of the Year, and he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame three years later. His Olympic Career, which ended at the 1992 Barcelona Games, gave him three gold medals and two silver medals.
U.S.A: Oscar De La Hoya
The "Golden Boy" may only have one Olympic medal, but the Mexican-American fighter won the gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games to fulfill a promise he had made to his mother, who died of cancer. Once he turned professional, De La Hoya won ten world titles in six different divisions.