Latin American Swim Queen!
From 1974 until the early 1980s, the most popular athlete in Central America was a woman. Her name: María del Milagro París, a notable sportswoman from Costa Rica. Without a doubt she put Costa Rica and Latin America on the map when she competed in the Summer Olympics (Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980) and World Championships (Cali 1974). Revered and respected by Costa Rica, one of the most stable and prosperous republics in the Western Hemisphere, she has been an inspiration by Silvia and Claudia Poll, who were the best athletes -male or female- in Latin America in the late 1980s and mid-1990s.
1980 was one of the best years for sport in Costa Rica. Why? As one of Latin America’s greatest female swimmers during the 1970s and early 80s, Costa Rica’s María París became the first swimmer in Central America to reach the finals of an Olympic event when she qualified for the finals at the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics. After several months of hard work and preparation, she, who was the best Costa Rican performer at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, came in seventh place in the women’s 100-meter butterfly.
María del Milagro París — Born to Swim
Her career as an international athlete began in the XII Central American and Caribbean Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1974, where she picked up a total of three gold medals. Since then, she did not win the golds by accident. Miss París, accompanied by Francisco “Frank” Rivas (the National Coach of Costa Rica’s Swimming Team), had worked very hard in the last three years. Like Silvia and Claudia Poll Arehns, she had trained in the Cariari Club, one of the most famous Costa Rican swimming clubs.
After being selected to compete for the Costa Rican Olympic Team in 1974, París led a national delegation to the FINA World Championships in Cali, Colombia. In that event, she finished fifth in the women’s 100m butterfly. Apart from the international titles, she also broke several national and regional records between 1974 and 1982.
After María’s participation in the 1980 Olympics, she had competed in the Central American and Caribbean Games in Havana (Cuba). In these Games, she won two women’s swimming golds (100m butterfly and 200m medley). In addition, she picked up a bronze in the 200m butterfly.
After her retirement as an athlete in 1984, an Olympic year, she was succeeded by Silvia Poll, a prominent swimmer between 1986 and 1992. In addition to her unique discipline, María París will be remembered as the first female swimmer in Latin America to reach the finals of a World Championship. Certainly, she is a notable example for several Olympic athletes.
Alejandro Guevara Onofre: Freelance writer. Alejandro is author of a host of articles/essays about over 220 countries and dependencies (and American States as well), from ecology, history, tourism and national heroes to Olympic sports, foreign relations, and wildlife. In addition, he has published some books on women’s rights, among them “History of the Women in America” and “Famous Americans”