Mallorca, Cradle of championsNo one can deny that Mallorca is an island that lives and breathes for sport. Amateur and professional footballers, basketball players, athletes, golfers, cyclists, motorcyclists, horse riders,tennis and padel players, swimmers, and yachtsmen among others can enjoy practicing an endless variety of sports all year round. Mallorca provides all kinds of facilities, installations and ideal venues for practicing any kind of sporting activity, except those involving snow…obviously.
It is a well-known fact and, because of this, the island is the destination of choice for many elite sportsmen and women, who search for somewhere quiet but with good training facilities. It is also home to, or a favourite holiday destination, for many sport legends.
The footballer Samuel Etoo swears that he will live out the final years of his professional career in Real Mallorca; the British Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, describes Mallorca as a home from home, and according to rumour is currently looking to buy a pied a terre in the Port Pollença area; Boris Becker and Michael Schumacher have both lived among us for several years; the American 5-times cycling champion, Sarah Hammer, trains and holidays on the island; the British footballer Steve McManaman even got married in Palma Cathedral; several Spanish soccer players spend the summer either here or in Ibiza; and so the list goes on, encompassing representatives of all kinds of sporting disciplines and categories.
But what is not so well known is the incredible number of Olympic medallists and world champions who have been born and raised here. Mallorca is one of the Spanish regions with most world-class sportsmen per square metre. Ever since the marksman Cristobal Tauler became the first Mallorcan world champion in the 1920s, through to the “Balearic” edition of the Davis Cup, when Carlos Moyà and Rafa Nadal crushed Andy Roddick’s American team, to say nothing of recent triumphs by Marga Crespí and Melanie Costa at this year’s world swimming championships in Barcelona …. Many have contributed to Mallorca’s reputation as a cradle of champions.
Tòfol Castanyer, the world mountain racing champion; Marga Fullana, bronze medallist in Sydney and 5-times world mountain bike champion; Miguel Capó, world duathlon finalist; Guillem Timoner, 6-time world speed cycling champion during the 50s and 60s; the speed cyclist Joan Llaneras is currently the leading Spanish Olympic medal-holder, as well as being world champion 7 times; we should also mention fellow champions Miquel Alzamora or Toni Tauler.
If we are talking tennis, then obviously Rafa Nadal springs to mind: world number one for 102 weeks and undisputed king of the clay court. However, before him came fellow-Mallorcan Carlos Moyà, who was to first Spaniard to be ranked number one on the ATP list. Nuria Llagostera was the first Balearic tennis player to win a Masters Cup. In soccer, Palma’s Chichi Soler and Gabi Vidal made history in 1992 by taking gold at the Barcelona Olympics. And all this without mentioning Miguel Angel Nadal’s numerous triumphs with FC Barcelona.
Jorge Lorenzo is of course our greatest motorcyclist, having twice won the world GP championship on top of the two he won in the 250cc category. Luis Salom is the reigning Moto3 champion, and shaping up as heir-in-waiting
In basketball, we have the legendary world champion Rullán, or Palma’s own Rudy Fernández, one of the golden boys in the Spanish national side’s dream team, who won the European championship in Poland, took silver in Beijing, and the 2006 world championship in Japan, as well as a stint in the NBA league before joining Real Madrid.
In taekwondo we have Brigitte Yagüe, who is the foremost Spanish sportswoman in this discipline, with three world championships, one Olympic final and four European championships under her belt. Another brilliant sportswoman is Elena Gomez, who in 2002 became the first Mallorcan gymnast to obtain a gold medal at a world championship.
Mallorca can boast a considerable amount of champions in water sports. The triumphs of Rafael Escalas both at home and abroad throughout the seventies and eighties paved the way for Xavi Torres, the winner of 15 gold medals between world championships and Paralympic games; Blanca Gil is one of the best female waterpolo players in the world. Another area where Mallorcan sportsmen shine is spear fishing, having provided as many as 19 world champions, among them (my friend and neighbour) José Amengual Domingo.
Being a nautical region, yachting has also spawned several Balearic champions, among them Pollença’s Pepote Ballester who won a gold at the Atlanta Olympics in Tornado class.
Another Olympic champion is Jordi Calafat, a gold-medallist at Barcelona 92. Calafat is still an active sportsman and some of his latest triumphs have been with the Alinghi, which has won the two most recent editions of the Americas Cup.
To round off this seemingly endless list of Mallorcan sporting triumphs, we can produce world champions in such varied disciplines as bowling, kick boxing, body building, chess, kayak, trial biking, golf, shooting, front tennis or university soccer.
I am afraid that I have been unable to do justice to each and every one of our world champions, and we must remember that the list could be longer still; however, but what is truly remarkable is that when one takes into account the size and population of this island, we really do have an amazing sporting history.
Which begs the question: is there something in the water?
By Miguel Angel Llompart
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