Spain is recognized as a world sporting powerhouse: its football team has always been up there with the best, and the team of the recent era is considered one of the greatest of all time. But Spain has produced world beaters in numerous sports; from motorcycle racing, to tennis and basketball.
The history of many sports is dotted with the names of mercurial Spaniards who dominated their chosen disciplines for years. Here’s our rundown of the greatest ever sportsmen and women to play for Spain. Let’s exploce The Top Spanish Sports Personalities Of All Time below.
The Top Spanish Sports Personalities Of All Time
Born in Barcelona in 1980, Pau Gasol has established himself as one of the greatest basketball players and Spanish athletes to come out of Spain. Giving up a career in medicine, Gasol developed his basketball career with FC Barcelona after a successful season with the ABC the Spanish Basketball League which paid off since he was the third overall draft pick in the NBA in 2001. He was first signed with the Atlanta Hawks but was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, before seeing any action on the court.
With the Grizzlies, he won a Rookie of the Year award after his first season. He went on to win two titles for the Los Angeles Lakers and currently plays for the San Antonio Spurs. He’s also led Spain’s national basketball team to a FIBA World Cup title and a gold Olympic Medal. He’s also won Olympic silver and multiple bronzes and is regarded as one of the most talented basketball players born outside of the United States.
Born in 1981 in Oviedo, Fernando Alonso is Spain’s most famous Formula 1 driver. Since he began his career with Formula 1 in 2003, he has never been out of the top 10. As a child, he was a Spanish Karting champion. As an adult, he holds the record for the youngest double champion and is only the second driver to break the 100 points barrier for three seasons in a row.
He was just 23 when he won his first championship, making him the youngest ever world champion. Regarded as one of the most talented drivers in the sport, Alonso has raced for some of the most renowned teams including Ferrari, Renault, and McLaren. He is also the only Spanish driver to ever have won the Grand Prix with a total of 32 wins. This is once of The Top Spanish Sports Personalities Of All Time.
Sevriano Ballasteros Sota or ‘Seve’ as he was known around the world was a golfing hero who lit up the game from the 1970s to the 1990s. Seve turned professional at just 17 and rose to prominence two years later when he finished joint second with legend Jack Nicklaus, in the 1976 Open championship. He won five major titles throughout his career, he was the first European to win the Masters and dominated the Ryder cup, helping Europe to five wins as a player and captain .
He won a record 50 European tour titles and will forever be remembered as one of the greatest ever to play the game, not just for his titles and wins but for the way he played the game and conducted himself. After his death in 2011, Tiger woods, described him as “one of the most talented and exciting golfers to ever play the game.”
At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Mireia Belmonte became the first Spanish woman ever to win an Olympic swimming gold medal, when she won the 200m butterfly race in dramatic fashion. For several years Belmonte had set records in short course events she currently holds five across freestyle, medley and butterfly events.
However in the long course events that are featured at the Olympics, she had never quite reached those heights, finishing second in two races at the Olympics in London in 2012. In Rio however, all that changed. Belmonte did not qualify fastest for the final but won by just three one hundredths of a second to catapult herself into the Spanish sporting history books.
Marc Marquez from Cevera in Catalunya, Spain, currently stands head and shoulders above the rest of the world in motorcycle road racing. A teenage sensation and still only 23, he has smashed records and won titles since the tender age of 17. He is one of only four riders to have won world titles in 3 different categories and is the youngest rider ever to have won the premier class MotoGP title which he did at his first attempt and successfully defended his title a year later.
He has broken records across all the classes of motorcycle racing and is now at the peak of his profession, dominating the premier MotoGP class by winning the title in 2013 and 2014 and finishing second by only a few points in 2015. Marquez is regarded by many as the leading motorcycle racer in the world and, because of his young age, he is expected to dominate for many years to come.