Olympics 2012: Summer Games Kick Off With Latinos Front & Center

By Michael Lopez

Who could resist tuning in to the opening ceremony of the Summer Games this past Friday? With the bombast, bright lights and James Bond appearances, it was truly a sight to see. And now three days in, Olympic stories continue to dominate the web, with several Latinos scoring big headlines.

Though Rafael Nadal was M.I.A., Spain’s Pau Gasol did an excellent job waving the country's flag for the Parade of Nations opening. The ace hoopster has already made his country proud, helping lead the Spanish Men's Basketball Team to a 97-81 victory over China on Sunday. Brazil proved to be dominant on the court too, overpowering Australia 75-71.

Speaking of Brazil, their big star of the moment is Rodrigo Pessoa. The equestrian extraordinaire already has four gold medals under his belt and was chosen to bear their flag during Friday's opening ceremony. Monday marks the beginning of the horse competitions and you can bet Pessoa will be ready to giddy up and ride.

Interestingly enough, Brazil already nabbed a few impressive medals. Judo hotshot Sarah Menezes knocked down Romania's Alina Dumitru on Saturday, becoming the first Brazilian woman to win solo gold. And Rio's Thiago Pereira nabbed a silver for the Men’s 400-meter swimming competition.

Cuba picked up a silver already too, courtesy of 25-year-old judo champ Yanet Bermoy. And Colombia's Rigoberto Uran scored his country's first medal of the Games, with a silver win during Saturday’s cycling competition.

Though the Latinos competing for America haven't taken down any golds yet, there are still plenty of opportunities. In fact, two Hispanic Team USA gymnasts have been building a ton of buzz for their performances on the balance beams.

Brooklyn's John Orozco became a hugely popular trending topic over the weekend for his performance during the qualifying rounds. The "Silent Ninja," as he's commonly known, wowed the judges with his work on the rings and the parallel bars.

Cuban-American Danell Leyva pulled off some fantastic maneuvers too, earning the judges' top all-around score. If he and the team can continue that momentum, they'll make history for the U.S. during Monday night's finals.

So far, Leyva and Orozco’s work on the Men’s Team earned a qualifying score of 275.342, besting Russia, Great Britain, Japan and China. And USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny feels confident that there are even more good things to come.

"Our guys showed the world that their vision of being Olympic champions is a real possibility," Penny told Fox Sports. "Saturday, they showed the world they're serious about this."

Danell also felt very confident after his performance, though he certainly wasn't underestimating the competition.

"We beat China and Japan, the teams we've been looking at the most," he said. "But I know for a fact they're going to come back strong."

Orozco and Leyva already have our vote and you can bet we'll be covering all of the other Latino champions making waves within the next two weeks!