At the start of 2016, it seemed unlikely that the Puerto Rican would even qualify for the tennis competition in Rio. Yet eight months later, Monica Puig stood on top of the podium after stunning Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the final of the women’s singles event.
With her victory, the 22-year-old achieved instant hero status in her home country. Not only is she the first female Puerto Rican athlete to win an Olympic medal, she is also the first gold medallist in the nation’s history.
And in the moments immediately after her triumph, Puig’s thoughts were with her homeland, which has a population of just 3.5 million.
“It’s just amazing. I know my country really appreciates this and I wanted to give it to them,” she said.
“That island has given me so much. So much love and support throughout my career and I just wanted this one for them.”
Puig’s success is all the more remarkable given that she had only previously won one singles title on the WTA Tour. She turned professional in 2010, the same year that she competed in the YOG Singapore 2010. After breaking into the world’s top 100 for the first time in 2013, the baseliner lifted her first trophy in Strasbourg the following year.