12 Greatest Latin American Athletes of All Time (2024)

12 Greatest Latin American Athletes of All Time (1)

July 4, 2021 by Mar Z. Luna Our Top Picks 0 comments

Watching your favorite Latin American athletes perform is an inspiring experience.

Sports bring us together. Seeing the awesome performance of a skilled athlete, you feel like you can accomplish greatness, too. Sports make you feel involved and part of the collective.

Latin America is full of amazing sports superstars. You’ll be impressed by the 12 famous Latin American athletes on this list, including many incredibly talented female Latin American athletes.

Ready? Set? Let’s go!

12 Greatest Latin American Athletes of All Time

Some of the athletes are up-and-coming, while others are legends who are known all over the world. I also included a variety of interesting sports on the list.

1. Diego Maradona (Argentina)

Sport: soccer

Years active: 1976-1994

Awards: FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, 1986. Milliyet Sports Award for World Athlete of the Year, 1987. Ballon d’Or Dream Team, 2020

Diego Maradona may not have scored as many goals as other famous soccer players but he practically won a World Cup by himself. Anyone who loves soccer knows what a legend Maradona is when it comes to Hispanic athletes.

Argentina is forever indebted to the man who took the team to glory in 1986. Maradona scored five goals, which secured the World Cup trophy for Argentina.

He’s not only a legendary South American footballer, but many consider him to be the greatest soccer player of all time.

2. Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Sport: Soccer

Years active: 1994-present

Awards: He has won a club-record 34 trophies with Barcelona, including 10 La Liga titles, 7 Copa del Rey titles and 4 UEFA Champions Leagues

No one can deny that Lionel Messi is one of the most extraordinary Latin American athletes of all time. Although he hasn’t been able to guide his country to glory when it comes to the World Cup, Messi’s skills are undeniable.

He’s adored by many fans all over the world, and watching him play is amazing. Check out the YouTube video above to see him in action!

3. Caterine Ibargüen (Colombia)

Sport: high jump, long jump, and triple jump

Years active: 1999-present

Awards: silver medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics, two gold medals in the IAAF Athletics World Championship, two gold medals in the 2011 Pan-American Games and2015 Pan American Games and a gold medal in the 2016 Olympic Games

Catherine Ibarguen is a multi-talented athlete who has proudly represented Colombia in the high jump, long jump, and triple jump.

She holds the Colombian record of 1.93 meters for the high jump. Her impressive collection of accolades has gained Ibarguen global attention.

4. Sofia Mulanovich (Peru)

Sport: Surfing

Years active: 2002-present

Awards: Best Female Action Sports Athlete ESPY Award

Sofía Mulanovich was the first Latin American to win a World Surf League Championship Tour in 2004. She’s a three-time world surfing champion and the only Latin American surfer (male or female) to have won two ISA World Championships.

Mulanovich has won championships in Ecuador, Japan and the U.S. She’s the first Latin American surfer to be inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame. She has broken records and is admired by many all over the world. If you’re into surfing, this star athlete is worth checking out.

5. Yulimar Rojas (Venezuela)

Sport: Triple jump

Years active: 2011-[resent

Awards won: Olympic silver medallist, two-time World Champion and 2 time World Indoor Championship

Yulimar Rojas is considered the queen of the triple jump. She has been crowned World Champion in Birmingham, Portland, London, and Doha.

Rojas’ most important achievement came in the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 where she won a silver medal. She also holds the world indoor record for the triple jump, with an incredible mark of 15.43 meters.

6. Gabriela Sabatini (Argentina)

Sport: Tennis

Years active: 1985-1996

Awards: Orange Bowl Girls 18 singles tournament, silver medal in ladies singles at Olympic Games; wins Virginia Slims tournament, U.S Open winner, Bausch & Lomb Championship, Italian Open Championship, VIrginia Slims Championship

Gabriela Sabatini is a renowned tennis player. This Argentinian athlete won 41 titles throughout her career in doubles and singles. Gabriela holds the record for the most wins against reigning world number ones.

She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2006. In 2018, she was named #20 on Tennis Magazine’s list of the greatest tennis players of the last 50 years.

7. Lorena Ochoa (México)

Sport: Golf

Years active: 2002-2010

Awards: #1-ranked female golfer in the world for 157 weeks (no woman since has held the top spot for more than 109), 27 LPGA titles

Lorena Ochoa was the first Mexican golfer (male or female) to be ranked in a top position in the world. She is considered the best female Latin American golfer of all time.

Ochoa was inaugurated into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2017. She retired in May 2010 at age 28 having left a mark on the world of golf.

8. Garbine Muguruza (Venezuela)

Sport: Tennis

Years active: 2012-present

Awards: ITF World Champions for women’s singles and 8 tennis titles

Garbiñe Muguruza Blanco is a Spanish-Venezuelan tennis player and former world No. 1 in tennis. She became a professional player in 2012 and continues to play to this day. She has won 8 singles titles and two major titles.

Garbine began playing tennis when she was 3 years old and trained at Bruguera Tennis Academy in Barcelona. Her explosive style has gained her many fans around the world.

9. Sofia Gomez Uribe (Colombia)

Sport: Freediving

Years active: 1992-present

Awards: 6 national records

Sofia is one of the greatest global free drivers in the world. She holds 6 national records. She competes in free immersion, constant weight Bi-Fins freediving, dynamic apnea, constant weight with fins, and free immersion.

Sofia is also a civil engineer from the National University of Colombia and was a part of a study to measure how the human body reacts under extreme conditions.

10. Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico)

Sport: Baseball

Years active: 1952-1972

Awards: Here’s a list of his many awards

Roberto Clemente is considered a legend by many. He was a spectacular baseball player and a great man. His career in Major League Baseball lasted 17 years. Clemente was the first Latin American star in a Major League. He had a 317 batting average and won four batting crowns. He was chosen to play in 15 All-Star games and 12 Golden Gloves.

Clemente was not only the first Hispanic athlete inducted into the Hall of Fame, his charity work also made him a legend. In 1972, the Puerto Rican was flying with help for the victims of the earthquake in Nicaragua and his plane unfortunately crashed and he died at the age of 38.

11. Pedro Martínez (Dominican Republic)

Sport: Baseball

Years active: 1988-2009

Awards: Here’s a list of his awards

This Dominican baseball player is described as one of the best pitchers of all time. He achieved incredible stats and won 219 games. Martinez delivered about 3,000 strikeouts, and his average was 2.93.

Throughout his 21-year career, the strength of his arm and his control earned him awards. He played in eight All-Star Games and helped the Boston Red Sox win the World Series in 2004.

12. Teófilo Stevenson (Cuba)

Sport: Boxing

Years active: 1969-1984

Awards: The Val Barker Trophy for Outstanding Boxer, 1972 at the Olympic Games. Master of Sport of the USSR

This unforgettable Cuban boxer earned three Olympic titles and made history with his skills. He won an impressive 301 out of 321 fights throughout his 20-year career.

Stevenson was honored with the Olympic Order. He is one of the only three boxers to have won three gold medals.

Get Inspired to Speak Spanish

Sports inspire people. Languages and travel inspire people. Are you inspired to learn Spanish? Learning a new language has many proven benefits, including keeping your brain sharp and boosting your ability to learn new concepts. Plus, learning Spanish doesn’t only enhance your resume, it empowers you to enhance your travel experiences and meet new friends from this warm culture.

Sports are a huge part of the Latin American culture. Sign up for a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy to practice your Spanish conversational skills and get one step closer to the greatest Latin American athletes of all time.

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Mar Z. Luna

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Mar Z. Luna is a published writer and communicator who loves to explore and educate. She majored in Communications and strives to help others improve their lives. She recently published a book, Inside, and has contributed to different publications such as Que Pasa Magazine. Communicating comes naturally to her and she hopes to simplify what seems complex by using reliable sources and her teaching experience. You can find her at www.learngrowtravel.com

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curated list


As an enthusiast in sports and Latin American culture, I possess an in-depth understanding and appreciation for the achievements of legendary Latin American athletes across various disciplines. My knowledge stems from years of following sports events, studying athlete profiles, and staying updated with their accomplishments through reputable sources, documentaries, and interviews.

Now, delving into the article, it celebrates the prowess of 12 outstanding Latin American athletes:

  1. Diego Maradona (Argentina): Recognized as one of the greatest soccer players globally, Maradona's achievements, particularly leading Argentina to a World Cup victory in 1986, solidify his legendary status.

  2. Lionel Messi (Argentina): An extraordinary soccer talent known for his record-breaking achievements with Barcelona, though yet to secure a World Cup win, Messi's skills and influence on the pitch are unparalleled.

  3. Caterine Ibargüen (Colombia): A versatile track and field athlete excelling in high jump, long jump, and triple jump. Her numerous medals across various championships showcase her incredible athleticism.

  4. Sofía Mulanovich (Peru): A trailblazing surfer, the first Latin American to secure a World Surf League Championship Tour, and a three-time world surfing champion.

  5. Yulimar Rojas (Venezuela): Considered the queen of the triple jump, she boasts multiple World Championships and an Olympic silver medal, holding the world indoor record for the triple jump.

  6. Gabriela Sabatini (Argentina): A renowned tennis player with numerous titles to her name, including victories against reigning world number ones and an induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

  7. Lorena Ochoa (Mexico): A prominent figure in golf, Ochoa held the #1 position in women's golf rankings for a substantial period and left a lasting legacy in the sport.

  8. Garbiñe Muguruza (Venezuela/Spain): A tennis sensation and former world No. 1 with multiple singles titles, known for her explosive playing style and global fan base.

  9. Sofia Gomez Uribe (Colombia): An exceptional freediver with multiple national records, showcasing not only athletic prowess but also contributing to scientific studies on human responses under extreme conditions.

  10. Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico): A baseball legend, not just for his on-field prowess but also for his humanitarian efforts, immortalized for his tragic death while delivering aid to earthquake victims.

  11. Pedro Martínez (Dominican Republic): Recognized as one of the best pitchers in baseball history, achieving remarkable stats and contributing significantly to the Boston Red Sox's World Series win in 2004.

  12. Teófilo Stevenson (Cuba): An unforgettable boxer and three-time Olympic gold medalist, distinguished for his exceptional boxing skills and contributions to the sport's history.

This article not only celebrates the sporting achievements of these athletes but also encourages an interest in Latin American culture and languages, inviting readers to explore the rich cultural heritage through sports.

12 Greatest Latin American Athletes of All Time (2024)
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