Skateboarding celebrity Manny Santiago is on the other end of the video call if you go by his big grin, missing teeth, blue hair, and contagious good mood.
Skating’s crown jewel is getting set to represent Puerto Rico at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where she has a shot at becoming only the second Boricua to win gold after Monica Puig did it in tennis at Rio 2016.
Manny, at the ripe old age of 35, has qualified for skateboarding’s big Olympic debut in Tokyo, but he already has his eyes on more.
“First, I want to change the course of history in Puerto Rico. Second, I want to go to Paris in 2024. Finally, if I can pull it off, I want to live in Los Angeles in 2028. When I hear “but you’ll be like, 40 or 43,” I respond:
“Right now, I want to skate at least to Los Angeles, represent Puerto Rico, and show people that if they take care of their bodies and keep fighting, they can achieve anything. Although I’m nearly 36 years old, I feel and ride better than I ever have before, yet I’m nowhere near my riding or physical peak.”
Find out in this in-depth interview with Manny about his upbringing, his role models, and the mother who paved the way for him to pursue his passions of music and dance.
M. Santiago Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
Growing up in Puerto Rico, where he was born, Manny Santiago’s Olympic victories were huge news because of the country’s tiny size and the island’s proximity to the United States.
“When I was a little chamaquito, the image of Michael Jordan leading the U.S. Olympic Dream Team was seared into my brain.
“But the one that truly stuck with me was the 2004 game between the Puerto Rican basketball team and the United States All-Star Dream Squad, which the Puerto Rican team won. Everyone was talking about how I defeated them and how pleased I was of myself because no one else had ever done it before.”
The Entire Country Seemed to Halt What they were doing to Watch this Game:
Puerto Rico, a small island with a population of about three million, gained famous when NBA player Carlos Arroyo led his team to a victory over the invincible USA basketball Dream Team.
Many people remember the Golden Generation of Argentina defeating the Dream Team and going on to win gold in Athens in 2004, but it was actually Puerto Rico that ended the United States’ undefeated streak since Michael Jordan and the NBA’s All-Stars joined the team in 1992, when they defeated the United States in Barcelona.
The victory sowed a seed of hope in Manny’s head that he could accomplish anything. There are more Olympians he looks up to:
“Thank you to Miguel Cotto, who has tirelessly fought for Puerto Rico throughout his career, to Monica Puig, the first Puerto Rican woman to win an Olympic gold medal, and to all the other Puerto Rican athletes who have made history. This is my tribe.”