Greatest Tico Athletes
Although this tiny country does not have many Olympic medalists or internationally recognized sportsmen, their accomplishments mean the world to most Costa Ricans. If you are vacationing in Costa Rica when the national soccer team—’La Sele’, plays an important match, you will notice people wearing team colors, cheering out on the streets all day long, preparing themselves to watch the game. Here is the list of the most influential Costa Rican athletes:
Luis Gabelo Conejo. Gabelo was the most famous Costa Rican soccer player from the FIFA world cup held in Italy in 1990. This became an epic championship for Costa Rican soccer fans, due to the performance of Gabelo. He lead the team to victory over Scotland and match in the second phase of the championship—round of 16. He was also given the recognition of best goalkeeper at the World Cup, and is currently ranked as one of the 50 best goal keepers in the history of soccer.
Sylvia and Claudia Poll Ahrens. Two of the biggest moments in the Costa Rican sport history were thanks to the performance of the Poll sisters, who earned the first silver and gold medals for Costa Rica in the Olympic Games. Sylvia, the older sister, won the silver medal at the Seoul’s Olympic Games in 1988, which was Costa Rica’s first ever Olympic medal. Claudia won Gold in 200 meter freestyle swimming event at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, in 1996. The iconic image of Claudia holding a tiny Costa Rican flag with tears in her eyes, is a lifetime memory that most Ticos cherish.
The Soccer Stars. The name says it all, after Gabelo Conejo (GK for Cartagines, Albacete), generations of talented soccer (football) players filled the stadiums of some of the best soccer teams around the world. Some of these players include: Paulo César Wanchope, formerly of Malaga and Manchester City, Gilberto ‘Tuma’ Martínez (Sampdoria, Roma, Saprissa), Walter ‘Pate’ Centeno (AEK Athens, Saprissa), Ricardo Fonseca (Alajuela), and currently Bryan Ruiz formally of Alajuela and Twente now plays in the English Premiere League at Fulham, and notable Keylor Navas who plays in La Liga, Spain for Levante.
Nery Brenes. This sprinter put Costa Rica at the top of the world’s athletics in 2012 when he set new national and championship record ant 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championship in Istambul. Also known as the king of the Pan-American and Iberoamerican Games, he won gold four times in the Central American and Caribbean Games and seven golds in the Central American Games. He is the sprinter who makes Costa Rican hearts skip a beat.
Hanna Gabriel Valle. This iron woman managed to win first welterwight World Championship Title for Costa Rica in boxing, in 2009. Hanna sorted a lot of obstacles to become a champion as she boxed her way to Costa Rican hearts, and into history; making a non-traditional sport to be followed by nearly the whole country.
Andrey Amador Bikkazakova. This young professional road bicycle racer became the ultimate Costa Rican sport star after winning the 14th stage of the Italian world famous cycling tour: “Il giro d´Italia” in 2012. Amador made history as the first Costa Rican ever winning in such competition. He is expected to bring many more titles home.