The cream of the crop

Sport in Catalonia is not all about Barcelona football club. The country also boasts a host of top sports men and women who compete in a broad range of different sporting disciplines

Catalonia is and always has been a country of high achievers. Its artists, chefs, writers, musicians, architects and designers, both past and present, are among the best in the world. Yet, one sphere in which Catalans truly excel - although it is often hard to tell in the foreign coverage, which tends to label them all as simply “Spanish” - is sport. In a relatively small country of seven million people, the huge contribution of Catalonia’s athletes is out of all proportion with its size.

Obviously, the colossus of Catalan sport is Barcelona football club, a giant institution that has become a household name all over the globe. Yet, the best of Catalan sport is about much more than just football. Among the world’s sporting champions are Catalan motorcyclists, Catalan trail runners, Catalan swimmers, Catalan basketball players, as well as Catalan water polo players, Catalan canoeists and even Catalan surfers. Many of these sports people do not get the mainstream coverage or the recognition among the general public that their efforts and achievements so richly deserve.

On these pages, we hope to help right this wrong by presenting some of the best talent out there, not only in Catalan sport, but in world sport in general. To get an idea of the range of the young sporting talent in the country, one need look no further than the annual awards handed out by Catalonia’s Union of Sports Federations. In the last award ceremony in December, the prize for best sportsman went to MotoGP rider, Marc Márquez. The motorcyclist from Cervera may only be 24 but he has already been world champion six times. Meanwhile, the prize for best sportswoman went to synchronised swimmer, Ona Carbonell, who at 27 has 20 world championship medals and is the most highly-decorated female swimmer in Catalan sporting history. Last year, the same prizes went to canoeist Saúl Craviotto, who has won four Olympic medals, and swimmer Mireia Belmonte, widely considered not only the greatest ever Catalan swimmer, but also the best Spanish swimmer of all time.

These are all very different athletes but they all have certain things in common: they are all Catalan, they are all extremely talented, and their hard work and determination has turned them into highly successful sports people, not only in Catalonia and Spain, but around the world. And they are not alone. As you will see over the next few pages, when it comes to winners at the top of their respective sporting disciplines, Catalonia has an embarrassment of riches.

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