January 9, 2009

Top Latino Athletes of 2008

By Daniel Cásarez
Vida En El Valle

Sports — from soccer to boxing to baseball to Olympic competition — had no lack of Latino participation in 2008. Vida en el Valle offers the top Latino newsmakers from the year.

Manny Ramírez/Baseball

Manny Ramírez — despite reviving the Los Ángeles Dodgers playoff hopes — has apparently worn out his welcome.

The East-turned-West Coast slugger is no longer being courted by Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt. Ramírez has rejected a two-year, $45 million offer from the Dodgers. The New York Yankees are reportedly interested in hiring the Dominican player for three years.

The 12-time All-Star player was traded by the Boston Red Sox to the Dodgers on July 31. Ramírez put up monstrous numbers for the Dodgers: .396 batting average, 17 home runs, and 53 RBI.

The money — of which Ramírez has earned more than $162 million in his career — and fame are not that important, he said on his Web site: “Playing baseball is a job that gives you a lot of fame. But I don’t play for fame. I will always do my best, because I love the game.”

The 36-year-old Ramírez is a nine-time Silver Slugger winner and most likely a future Hall of Famer.

Óscar De La Hoya/Boxing

At the bottom of Óscar De La Hoya’s Christmas stocking, behind the massive Pay-Per-View sales tickets, is another full year of boxing.

While another world championship bout may be out of the question, fans still want a De La Hoya vs. “anyone” fight card.

The Golden Boy is coming off a November loss to Manny Pacquiao in a showdown that generated about $70 million in television revenue. De La Hoya’s 2007 bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. had $134 million in revenue.

De La Hoya, who launched Golden Boy Promotions, has not ruled out more boxing matches. However, at his age (he’ll be 36 on Feb. 4), time is running out.

Dara Torres/Swimming

A five-time U.S. Olympian, the 41-year-old swimmer earned a silver medal at the Beijing Games, which instantly propelled her as the poster child for inspiration for people over 40.

Torres — who beat swimmers young enough to be her daughter — announced she may be present at the 2012 London Olympics ... as an announcer.

She earned the silver medal in the 50-meter freestyle. At the 2000 Sydney Games, Torres, who says “...age is just a number, not a death sentence ...” was the oldest competitor to earn a medal in the games.

Henry Cejudo/Wrestling

The United States captured 36 gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, but there was probably no athlete who appreciated it more than Henry Cejudo, a 21-year-old son of undocumented Mexican immigrants who had to work two jobs to feed the family.

“I’m living the American dream right now, man,” said Cejudo after giving the U.S. its first gold in freestyle wrestling with a win over Japan’s Tomohiro Matsunaga in the 121-pound final. “The United States is the land of opportunity. It’s the best country in the world and I’m just glad to represent it.”

Cejudo was born in Los Ángeles, one of six children born to Nelly Rico. The children would sometimes sleep four to a bed.

Lorena Ochoa/Golf

The Guadalajara, Jalisco, native jumped off to a great 2008, winning five of the first six tournaments. Her finish, however, was far from Ochoa-esque: Two wins the rest of the year.

Ochoa’s game is so good, that seven wins and almost $2.8 million in earnings is looked at as sub-par.

Her game was good enough to capture her second consecutive LPGA player of the year award.

“Lorena has had yet another incredible season,” LPGA Commissioner Carolyn F. Bivens said. “Her work off the course has been equally impressive. Once only a national hero, Lorena is now a global hero. The world is grateful to have her, and we are more than proud to call her our own.”

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