In one of her first official interviews since leaving the Olympic Games in Brazil to participate in a tennis tournament in the United States, gold medalist Mónica Puig says she is still trying to process it all.
“It was an unforgettable experience. I’m still super excited about the whole thing and I feel like it’s still all a dream,” Puig said on Telemundo’s morning show Un Nuevo Día (A New Day).
The unseeded Puig stunned the sports world by beating heavily favorited Angelique Kerber of Germany to win a gold medal in the tennis singles match, becoming the first person representing Puerto Rico to take the top prize in Olympics history.
“I will never forget that moment when they played La Borinqueña (Puerto Rico’s national anthem). Right before that someone from the stands screamed ‘we’re going to hear it!’ and I said ‘yeah!’ It was so wonderful.”
Puig feels her gold medal is a win that reverberates far from the tiny Caribbean island. “This is for Puerto Rico and also for all of the rest of Latin America. The win is an incredible moment because no one from Latin America had ever won a gold medal in tennis at the Olympics.”
Puig joked that she fell to her knees right after the match not because she was overcome with emotion but because she was “dead tired,” and added that the popular hashtag #PicaPower is a play on the word in Spanish for “hammering away” that she uses for inspiration. “When there are obstacles in the way you have to bust rocks (picar piedras) to achieve your goals. Now it’s trending worldwide; wow.”
“I don’t think she realizes how big of a deal this (gold medal win) is and how historic this is,” said Puerto Rican singer Elvis Crespo, who was also on the show. “I’m just so overcome and excited.” Crespo added that he planned on being in Puerto Rico next week when Puig returns to the island. “I’m not going to miss that for anything in the world. This is so big for Puerto Rico. So, so big.”
Island officials say they plan “an enormous welcome and celebration” next Tuesday afternoon for Puig and the other Olympic athletes.
“She brought us all together as a country and there aren’t words to describe what it means for the island,” Ramón Orta, Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said during an interview on local radio. Organizers say they expect record-breaking crowds.
Puig says she has already started getting back to training to participate in the U.S. Open taking place in New York City in two weeks.