Cuban volleyball features many who have shone brightly in competition, and others that could soon shine as well.
With eight titles, three silver medals and one bronze, Cuba holds the highest number of awards in women’s volleyball since the sport appeared on the Pan American Games roster in its second edition in Mexico City 1955.
From 1971-1995 the team won seven consecutive titles until Brazil broke the streak in Winnipeg 1999, following which the Dominican Republic reigned in 2003 with its only medal in the event, both successes greeted warmly by the Cubans.
Cuba’s historic winning streak solidified the most outstanding decades for the sport on the island and gave birth to the spectacular volleyball squad Morenas del Caribe, world champions in 1978 and again in 1994 and 1998.
In an unprecedented feat, the team also climbed to the top of the podium at the Olympic Games in Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000. It was quite an achievement, and one that brought the team wide recognition.
It is no wonder so many Cubans are included among the top 20 Pan American volleyball award winners, led by the stars of their generations: Mireya Luis (4-1-0) and Mercedes “Mamita” Perez (4-0-1).
The latter was one of the universal champions in 1978, along with Imilsis Tellez and Mercedes Pomares, who earned four Pan American golds, and at a time when three-time Olympic champion Lily Izquierdo scored three golds and one silver.
Cuban volleyball stars Ana Ibis Diaz, Josefina Capote, Magaly Carvajal, Mavis Guilarte and Norka Latamblet also wore the gold.
In the Rio de Janeiro 2007 Pan Am Games, Cuba regained its reign in one of the most exciting matches when the team beat out the host Brazil after they bested all the others.
Four years later in Guadalajara, Brazil retaliated and took the title.
Behind Cuba (8-3-1) and Brazil (4-2-2) come the United States medalists (1-5-5), Mexico (1-0-3), Dominican Republic (1- 0-0), Peru (0-5-3) and Canada (0-0-1).
Cuba’s first women’s volleyball laurel was a bronze medal in 1967, and its most recent was silver in 2011.
The feat of seven consecutive wins will be very hard to beat, like maintaining the streak of 12 consecutive Games on the podium. The streak lasted 44 years, during which many witnessed the development of talented players and technical rigour, immortalized in the names of the now departed Eugenio George, Antonio Perdomo and Luis Felipe Calderon, to name some of the most prestigious.