Exclusiva FOX Deportesby: Jose Romero
The 2012 London Olympics are in full swing and there is much to enjoy and be amazed, curious or puzzled about.
But let’s start with U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte, perhaps the face of these Games from an American perspective.
Forget the fact that he beat Michael Phelps in the 400-meter individual medley Saturday and all that talk about their rivalry. Lochte is Latino! His mother is Cuban, and as she told the NBC television affiliate in Miami, Ryan loves him some Cuban cooking when he comes home.
Now let us go back to the beginning of the Games. Mexico’s men’s soccer team drew with South Korea last Thursday, but gathered itself and beat Gabon 2-0 Sunday. El Tri is poised to move on to the knockout round.
The opening ceremonies were fantastic. I’m a big James Bond movie buff, so seeing Daniel Craig’s bit with the queen was cool. And the team entrances are always the best part. I liked how many Latin American countries went with the traditional dress of their homeland for their athletes. Sombreros, guayaberas, etc.
Seeing sports you never, ever see outside of the Olympics has been fun. I watched archery, table tennis, badminton, women’s weightlifting, men’s field hockey, women’s volleyball and fencing with interest.
The ping-pong balls and birdies move so fast and the reaction times are swift. The women’s weightlifting was, well, enlightening. Watching Great Britain vs. Argentina in men’s field hockey, I was reminded of a movie I saw (can’t remember the title) when a cab driver in Buenos Aires starts talking trash to his passenger, a Brit, sometime after the Falkland Islands War between the two countries.
“Malvinas!!!! Malvinas!!” the cabbie yelled. Argentines don’t call the islands just off their coast the Falklands – they are called the Malvinas to them.
Volleyball, well, players from the Brazilian and Dominican Republic teams plus Logan Tom from the USA. No mas.
The boxing is interesting because you see fighters from countries that you wouldn’t think have traditionally good boxing developmental programs doing well. As for the USA, Joseph Diaz from the L.A. area looked good in his first fight Saturday, a win to advance to the next round.
Lightweight Jose Ramirez from Hanford, Calif., advanced with a one-point win. And Puerto Rico’s Jeyvier Cintron won his flyweight bout Monday to advance, his blond-streaked mullet maybe equally a conversation topic.
First Japan stunned Spain in men’s soccer last Thursday, then Honduras, with its MLS connection of Roger Espinoza, Andy Najar and Jerry Bengtson, who scored the winning goal, came up with a huge upset over the Spaniards. Spain, a gold-medal contender when the Olympics started, has been eliminated from competition, which creates a better opportunity for a team like Mexico to be a medalist.
Speaking of boxing, it’s meaningful to see USA female competitor Marlen Esparza on TV commercials for Cover Girl, Coke and McDonald’s. She’s a great story.
The USA women’s soccer team had an eventful start to the Games. After surrendering the first two goals of their opening match to France last Wednesday, the Americans scored four straight to win. Then after their win over Colombia on Saturday – in which star Abby Wambach took a punch to her face that wasn’t called on the field – goalkeeper Hope Solo got loose on Twitter, ripping NBC commentator and former national team player Brandi Chastain.
I like Solo’s fearless expression of herself and how she has made some good moves to advance her career in and away from soccer and increased her profile immensely. But all she succeeded in doing was taking the focus off the team’s play and creating a distraction.
Last thing… Monday afternoon I got to see some women’s water polo. I saw a Latina in the pool on the U.S. team, Brenda Villa. I did some research and found out that she is the daughter of Mexican parents, is 34 years old and has three Olympic medals from the past three Games. But just as important, she’s a role model.
She’s one of the greatest women’s water polo players in the history of the sport. And yet she has made a major difference in the lives of kids throughout California and keeps giving back to her community and to young Latinos by teaching them to swim and play the sport.
That’s worth a “Viva Villa!” for sure.
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