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The Top 5 London 2012 Latino Olympians

By Jack Tomas

The London 2012 Olympics have come to a close and we’ll all have to find something else to do besides pray that the Chinese athletes all get shin splints. These Olympic games have been particularly good for Latinos. Just like in politics and media, 2012 is the year America discovered just what its Latinos can do. It wasn’t all American Latinos that are taking home Olympic bling either. Athletes from all over Latin America won upset victories in all kinds of unexpected places. Take for example Mexico’s Maria Del Rosario Espinoza’s bronze medal in taekwondo. Who knew Mexicans even did taekwondo? So, here is a look back at 5 of the best Latino 2012 Olympians.

Danell Leyva

Cuban-American gymnast Danell Leyva won bronze in the men’s all around individual final, something rare for an American athlete. Danell won second in the world championships to Nuyorican John Orozco earlier this year. Both made the Olympic team, but Orozco choked like a chubby kid at a jawbreaker factory. Danell played through and was able to pull it out at the last minute with an amazing routine on the horizontal bar. Leyva is also famous for draping a lucky towel his aunt gave him over his head before he goes on. He believes it helps him win. Don’t scoff at the towel’s juju. Do you have a bronze medal? No? Then shut up.

The Mexican Soccer Team

Or, should I say, the gold medal winning Mexican soccer team! There were parties in the streets all over Mexico as the team, made up mostly of kids younger than 23, beat the Brazilian juggernauts 2-1. Mexico has always been an underdog in international competition. What makes this victory particularly sweet is that it was against Brazil. The Brazilians have traditionally been as impossible to beat as gravity is to 64-year-old carnivale dancer. It was a huge upset that Mexico is going to be celebrating for years to come.

Ryan Lochte

Yes, Ryan Lochte is Latino. His mom is Cuban and he’s always been pretty open about his pride in his Latino roots. Ryan had a very good couple of weeks. He won gold in 400m individual medley and the 4×200 freestyle relay, as well as silvers in the 200m individual medley and the 4×100 freestyle medley, and a bronze in the 200m backstroke. Lochte, along with every other American swimmer, lives in the shadows of Michael Phelps’ toothy hick grin. I think Lochte more than showed that he is as good a swimmer as Phelps. This is especially true given that Lochte isn’t half mutant seal like Phelps. Sure, Lochte is a bit of a D-bag with his American flag grills and colorful Speedos. Whatever, he earned a lot of medals so we’re going to claim him.

Leonel Manzano

Leonel won silver in 1500m final race with an amazing 3:34.79. It takes me about 30 minutes and two Slushy breaks to go 1500m. Manzano’s story is a classic tale of the American dream coming true for once. He snuck over the border at the age of 4 with his parents. Though he was undocumented, he went on to distinguish himself as a ridiculously good runner. Now, not only does he have his citizenship, but he’s brought home the silver for his adopted country. Leonel is also famous for weird Latino pregame voodoo. He does a weird thing where he licks and touches all his joints and crosses himself or something. It’s best to just watch the video below.

Marlen Esparza

Marlen won the first ever medal for the U.S. in women’s boxing when she beat China’s Ren Cancan for the bronze medal. Unlike most female boxers, Marlen is also pretty darn cute. I guess that’s why she has an endorsement deal from Covergirl. Not that I’m saying she doesn’t have tremendous talent. It’s no easy feat to go up against some of those genetically enhanced Ivan Drago-type lady boxers some of these countries come up with. She was also the subject of a CNN Soledad O’Brien doc called “The Latina Boxer: Latinos In America 2”. This victory is particularly sweet for me because Marlen and I come from the same town of Pasadena, Texas. Formerly, we were only known for being the setting for John Travolta’s “Urban Cowboy”. An Olympic medalist is a much better claim to fame.

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