The sweat, the tears, the sacrifices that they've made, it's not easy to be an Olympian -- but perhaps it's even harder to raise one.
The London Olympic Games has triggered a migration of hundreds of U.S. athletes across the Atlantic, and the company behind brands like Crest and Tide, Procter & Gamble, made sure that over 2,000 mothers of Olympians made it to London to see their kids compete as part of their "Thank you, Mom" campaign.
So we thought we'd thank the parents of these latino olympians in our own way. If Ryan Lochte's mom makes it clear that behind the Olympic star there is a Cuban grandmother making croquetas, we figured we'd take a look at who's behind our other Latino Olympians.
HERE ARE 6 LATINO OLYMPIANS AND THE REASONS THEY LOVE THEIR PARENTS:
Ileana "Ike" Lochte
During the Olympic Trials in Omaha Ryan gave a big cyber thank you to his mother. "I got to spend a little time tonight after my race with the two most important women in my life," Ryan wrote on his <a href="http://ryanlochte.com/blog/2012/06/thank-you-mom/" target="_hplink">website</a>. "My beautiful mom and beautiful grandma who is 91 years old!! Thank you mom and grandma for always being there for me!"
Behind Cuban-American gymnast Danell Leyva is a man frantically cheering in the sidelines. Yin Alvarez is well known for yelling things like "That's my boy!" and "You're the best, baby!," complemented with expressive hand gestures, as his stepson competes. Alvarez, Team USA coach and past Cuban gymnast, and his wife, also a past Cuban gymnast, train Danell in their South Florida gym--Universal Gymnastics. "Everybody thinks it's an embarrassment because he acts so crazy, but it's actually a big help," Leyva told <em><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/sports/olympics/with-stepfathers-coaching-danell-leyva-reaches-for-an-olympic-gold.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">The New York Times</a></em>. "I love hearing him. I love his energy and passion. I feed off of it. It definitely makes me better." Photo: Danell Leyva and his coach Yin Alvarez react after Leyva competed on the high bar during day 3 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials at HP Pavilion on June 30, 2012 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Take a peek at the stands while Puerto Rican-American gymnast John Orozco competes and you'll find a woman on the edge of her seat--nervous but determined to cheer. Raising a family in the Bronx, Damaris Orozco knew how difficult it would be for John to become an olympic gymnast. But she was intent to make her child's dream come true. So she would drive him everyday to World Cup Gymnastics in Chappaqua--a car ride that took nearly an hour each way. He trained hard, but she knew that her boy was still being taunted for what he chose to do. Before the ride <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/news-blogs/gymnastics/new-york-gymnast-makes-unique-journey-to-olympics.html?chrcontext=team-usa&cid=rss" target="_hplink">she would ask him if he was sure he wanted to go</a>, and every time John would reassure her he did. "I said, 'Mom, there's no way I'm ever going to quit gymnastics,'" Orozco told the <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/news-blogs/gymnastics/new-york-gymnast-makes-unique-journey-to-olympics.html?chrcontext=team-usa&cid=rss" target="_hplink">Associated Press</a>. "I'm going to go until my limbs fall off.'"
Behind the Olympic Taekwondo Lopez trio--Steven, Diana, and Mark--is Nicaraguan mother Ondina Lopez. Jean, her fourth and eldest, is their coach. Often a nervous spectator, Ondina avoids seeing her children compete. That is until the Beijing 2008 Games, when all three qualified and medaled. "Growing up with three older brothers and being the youngest and the only girl, my mom always made me tough," Diana Lopez said to <a href="http://espn.go.com/espnw/athletes-life/7916781/espnw-olympian-diana-lopez-gets-kicks-family" target="_hplink">ESPN</a>. "She's taught me over the years how to be a strong, independent woman, how to carry yourself in a positive way and anything that my brothers can do, I can do."
Joseph Diaz Sr.
It's not hard to guess that behind a Jr. there's a Sr.--but Joseph Diaz Sr. has been more than a father to "JoJo" over the years. After losing his job, he realized that his son's interest in boxing, which began as self-defense, had turned into a passion. The Mexican-American quickly began to watch YouTube videos and talk to trainers, preparing himself to train his son to become a champion. "Me and my father have a really great bond," Diaz Jr. told <a href="http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/boxing/interview-with-joseph-diaz-jr-and-sr.html" target="_hplink">NBCOlympics.com</a>. "I mean, he's my father, my best friend, my coach, my everything. And especially knowing that he's right by my side, at the gym, at my house, even with situations outside of the gym, I tell him and he just gives me the best advice."
Marlen Esparza, the Mexican-American boxer, grew up soaking up the sport. Her and her father, David, would sit and watch matches together--a bonding experience turned life dream. But David always hoped that one of his <em>sons</em> would pick-up the sport. Sure enough it was his little girl who would show the heart and determination to become the first Hispanic female boxer to represent the United States in the Olympics. "I decided to be a boxer because I grew up watching boxing with my dad," Ezparza told <a href="http://www.laaficion.com/noticias/106273-marlen-esparza-hace-historia" target="_hplink">laaficion.com</a>. "It was a big part of my childhood. I did it because I wanted to prove to myself that I could box, and I took advantage of when I was sent to supervise my brother while he trained. At first my mother didn't want me to get hurt, but the one who was most reluctant to let me fight was my father."