Monica Puig took home the gold medal for women’s singles tennis at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Puig is the first Olympic gold medal winner for Puerto Rico. She is the first woman to win a medal for Puerto Rico. She is the first unseeded player ever to win a gold medal in the women’s singles event.
She is not the first Puerto Rican woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Gigi Fernandez took home gold medals in 1992 and 1996, also in tennis. But she was representing the United States.
Puerto Rican athletes have the option of playing on the U.S. team or on the Puerto Rico team. Since they are U.S. citizens by birth, athletes from Puerto Rico are eligible for the U.S. Olympic team just as athletes from Idaho are.
Since the 1947 Olympic Games in London, however, Puerto Rico has fielded its own team. Puerto Rico is one of a number of “entities” which have Olympic teams without being countries. Guam, American Samoa, and Palestine are other examples. In both 2016 and 2020, there was also a Refugee Team composed of athletes from various different countries which carried the flag of the Olympic games.
Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Like other U.S. territories, it gets to field its own team at the Olympics essentially because the Olympic committee said it can, and the United States has never objected.
Puerto Rico has won eight medals in the past, six for boxing. Puig’s gold medal was the first gold medal for Puerto Rico.
Carlos Beltran, secretary of Puerto Rico’s Olympic Committee, told El Vocero that “This win of Monica’s has a message for Puerto Rico: that we can unite and do great things.”