Baseball players are arguably Cuba’s most well-known sporting export, but the country has also produced stars in other sports. Here are some of the most famous ones that you should know.
High jumper Sotomayor still holds the world record that he set in 1993. No one has been able to beat the 2.45 metres that “The Prince of Heights” cleared at an outdoor event in Salamanca, Spain, and he also jumped a record 2.43 metres at an indoor event in Budapest. Sotomayor also won Olympic gold at Barcelona 1992 and silver at Sydney 2000, but the end of his career was overshadowed by problems with banned substances.
Alongside baseball, Cuba has a great reputation for boxing. Teófilo Stevenson is one of the best amateur boxers in history, winning Olympic golds at Munich 1972, Montreal 1976, and Moscow 1980, alongside a raft of other titles. His reputation was such that the possibility of fighting Muhammed Ali was explored in the late 70s, although nothing ever came of it.
One of the best track-and-field talents to come out of Cuba is long jumper Pedroso. “The Grasshopper” won nine World Championships, and Olympic gold at Sydney 2000. In 1996 he also beat the world record by jumping 8.96 metres at an event in Italy, but the record didn’t stand because a judge interfered with the wind measurement.
Another amazing amateur boxer, Savón ruled the 91 kilograms category and remained unbeaten for nearly 20 years. He won Olympic gold at Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, and Sydney 2000, before being forced to retire due to an age limit imposed by the International Boxing Association (AIBA). At 6ft 5in, he was a formidable opponent known for his right hand.
Winner of three consecutive Olympic golds at Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, and Sydney 2000, volleyball star Torres was named the best player in the 20th century by the International Volleyball Federation. She led the Cuban team, known as the “Morenas del Caribe,” which won a stream of major volleyball events from 1992–2000. Torres is best known for her blocking ability, and features in the Volleyball Hall of Fame in Massachusetts.
Pedro Luis Lazo
Baseball pitcher Lazo played his entire career in Cuba, winning a record-breaking 257 matches in the National Series and ranking second in the strike-out rankings. He won the title in 1997 and 1998 with Pinar del Río, and also took home a gold medal from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and silver from Sydney 2000. Now retired, he lives in Mexico.
“The Immortal” is feted as the best Cuban baseball player of all time, and he played in every position on the field across a three-decade-long career. Dihigo played in Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, and the US, but he was barred from the Major Leagues due to a ban on black players which lasted until 1947. Instead he played in the Negro League. Born in Matanzas, he won around 260 games before passing away in 1971.