LatinXcellence: Monica Puig, Puerto Rico's First Olympic Gold Medalist
Celebrate Latinx Heritage Month with People CHICA's LatinXcellence series, spotlighting the incredible women who are changing the world through their work and activism. Today we focus on Puerto Rican tennis star and Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig.
Here at People CHICA we celebrate our Latinidad 365 days a year, but during Latinx Heritage Month, we go extra hard. Established in 1988, Latinx Heritage Month recognizes the generations of Latinx Americans who have positively influenced and enhanced our society. All month long, we'll be celebrating with a series called #LatinXcellence, highlighting women who are making a difference in Latinx culture today through their art, work and activism.
Puerto Rican tennis star Monica Puig has shown other athletes that the sky is the limit. In 2016, she became the first athlete to win an Olympic gold medal for Puerto Rico. After her success at the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, the proud boricua spoke to People en Español about what it meant to bring home the gold to her native island and the sacrifices that took her there. “I love sports, so when I saw that I could do this as a career, it inspired me to follow this path,” she said.
Becoming the best took a lot of hard work. “I started to prepare myself physically, I started working hard to reach my goals and to believe that I could achieve anything,” she explained. “I knew that if I truly believed it that I could do it.”
Getting an education was also important to Puig, who studied communications and told the magazine she has aspirations outside the tennis court: “I want to be a journalist and a tennis match commentator.” For the 26-year-old athlete, having the support of her loved ones has been crucial. “They inspire me to keep going forward and to fight for my dreams,” she said. Still, she also knows when to relax. “I love spending time with family, going to the beach,” she added. Being in the spotlight after taking home the gold in Rio took some getting used to. “The experience and all the attention has been a bit overwhelming,” she admitted.
While continuing to pursue her passion for tennis, she has put her fame to good use, setting up a fundraiser to help the victims of the devastating Hurricane Maria in her homeland in 2017. “I promise to do everything in my power to help my beloved island and fellow Puerto Ricans to rebuild, heal and restore Puerto Rico,” she expressed on Twitter. She kept her promise, collaborating with the Yo No Me Quito Foundation to help those in need.
She also supported fellow Puerto Ricans in getting governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign this year amid massive street protests over a corrupt government. “Our kids and youth, who are our future, need and deserve a Puerto Rico with strong values and committed to positive change,” she tweeted then. Puig has said she wants to keep winning more tennis medals and trophies, but her ultimate goal is to continue giving her best through her humanitarian work.