Although summer may be more than halfway through already, there is still plenty to look forward to with the Rio Olympics just around the corner. As the August games approach, those prestigious spots on the U.S. national team are filling up fast, many of them by Latina athletes. Balancing elite physical training with families, academics, and careers, here are just fivesix of this summer’s many U.S. Olympians who are actively proving that Latinas are strong in mind and in body.
DIANA TAURASI is widely considered as one of the best, if not the best, female basketball players in the world. Hailing from Chino, California, Taurasi grew up speaking both Spanish and English as the daughter of an Argentinian mother and an Italian father. Her talent quickly stood out as an athlete for the University of Connecticut, where she graduated with a degree in Sociology, before becoming a WNBA rookie of the year. Taurasi has become an all-time leading scorer in the WNBA while playing for the Phoenix Mercury, though she did take a break from the American professional league this year in order to focus on her primary position on a professional women’s basketball team in Russia. “D.T.,” as she is also known, has already led the U.S. women’s basketball team to the Olympic gold in Greece, Beijing and London, and hopes to repeat the team’s success again this summer in Rio. Though Taurasi is incredibly focused and hard-working, her USA Basketball online profile also describes her as “…a true jokester when she’s not playing some serious basketball.”
MAYA DiRADO safely secured her spot in this summer’s games after winning first place for the 400-meter individual medley race at Olympic swim trials. According to a Washington Post article, this will be the swimmer’s only appearance on the Olympic stage. A native of Santa Rosa, California, DiRado graduated from Stanford University in 2014 with a degree in management science and engineering, and will be trading in her professional swim career this fall for a career as an analyst at a management consulting firm in New York City. Twenty-three-year-old Maya is also recently married to a fellow Stanford swimmer.
ANITA ALVAREZ and her competition partner, Mariya Maroleva, will be the only two representatives for U.S. synchronized swimming at the 2016 Olympics. Both of these women were on the U.S. women’s synchronized swimming team that that won gold at last year’s U.S. Open and National Championships. Alvarez, herself, is new to the west coast. She moved from upstate New York all the way two Concord, California when she was just sixteen in order to train with the U.S. National team, a difficult decision that appears to be paying off for the now nineteen-year-old athlete.
JACKIE GALLOWAY, a dual-citizen of Mexico and the United States, first appeared on everyone’s radar at age fourteen, when she became the youngest person to ever make the Mexican national taekwondo team. Now, twenty years old and residing in Dallas, Texas, Galloway’s recent successes have earned her a ranking as number four in the world, and a spot on the U.S. team in Rio. Along with being a world-class athlete, Jackie is also a scientist, majoring in mechanical engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
ANGELICA DELGADO is petite, without a doubt. She stands at 5 feet, 3 inches tall, and weighs only 114lbs. Just looking at her, you might not guess that she is actually a four-time national champion in Judo, ranked twentieth in the world, and first in the U.S. A twenty-six-year-old first generation child of Cuban parents, Delgado is entirely aware of the value of an education, as she currently attends Florida International University. She is also aware of the impact that her success could have on her community. Angelica’s Facebook profile reads, “Coming from a lower-middle class family has taught me that dreams don’t just simply come true; you must work, grind and hustle to make them a reality. I will work, grind and hustle to become the first Hispanic-American to win an Olympic gold medal in Judo.”
LAURIE HERNANDEZ is a typical teenager in many ways; she enjoys painting her nails, listens to pop and EDM music, and walks around with a bubbly attitude and wide smile wherever she goes. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds, however, this New Jersey native has devoted most of her young life to rigorous gymnastics training. Hernandez has even been home-schooled since third grade in order to concentrate more on her sport of choice. The sacrifice has definitely paid off for Hernandez, though, as her third place all-around finish at the U.S. Olympic trials last month earned her a well-deserved ticket to Rio. This is only her first year transitioning from junior to senior-level competition, and the “Human Emoji” (a nickname referring to the athlete’s emotionally expressive face) has already joined an exclusive group of Olympic gymnasts- Latinas. According to People Magazine, only a handful of Hispanic women have ever represented the U.S. in an Olympic gymnastics competition. As a second generation Puerto Rican-American, Laurie hopes that her success in the games will help to inspire future Latina olympians, saying in an interview with the NY Daily News: “People are people. If you want something, go get it. I don’t think it should matter what race you are.”