Famous Italian-Americans in the Sports Arena
Throughout history, Italian athletes in the sports arena have presented themselves as strong, proud, or even macho individuals. They barely need any dramatic effect for their performances. Their personalities and prowess are enough.
Take, for example, two-time Mr. Universe winner Lou Ferrigno who also played the Incredible Hulk in the hit 80’s TV show, and he didn’t even need special effects. Or the famous Italian-American major league baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, who played for the Yankees for over a decade.
DiMaggio was considered an American hero and bagged history’s most notorious beauty queen of the 50’s Marilyn Monroe, who was his wife for about a year.
A List of Famous Italian-American Athletes
Here is a list of the top 10 Italian-American athletes that have made an impact in the sporting industry in a variety of ways. These athletes are not limited to one sports genre and may come from different eras in the industry, but all made an impact worth noting during their time in the industry.
10. Magdeline Martinez
Two-time Triple jump Olympic bronze medallist Magdeline Martinez is a Cuban-born Italian athlete who has competed for both Cuba and Italy in the Olympic Games between 1999 and 2003. Though Martinez doesn’t have any gold medals, her perseverance is evident in her respective field from a records perspective.
She competed in the 2002 European games, where she finished sixth. She then finished fifth in the 2003 Indoor Championship before earning a bronze medal at the 2003 World Championships. In 2005 she won the silver medal at the European Indoor games.
9. Maria Sacramone
This Olympic silver medallist from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, made a name for herself as a gymnast at the Pan American Championships by earning five gold medals during the 2004-2005 games in Rio de Janeiro and Maracaibo, respectively.
With a total of 12 gold medals throughout her career (four world championships, two Pacific Rim Championships, and one World Cup final), Sacramone’s career as an artistic gymnast has been nothing but fruitful for her.
8. Jenna Pandrini
Two-time National Champion Jenna Padrini is a track and field athlete best known for her prowess in sprinting but began her career in jumping events. With three gold medals and a single silver and bronze under her belt, Padrini has proven to be a force to reckon with.
Her latest gold medal was in 2018 at the Ostrava Continental cup. Her silver medal comes from the Beijing games in 2015.
7. Jennifer Capriati
Tennis Hall of Famer Capriati was a gold medallist at the 1992 summer Olympics. Best known for her Grand Slam Singles championship wins in Australia 2001-2002, the French Open in 2001, and Wimbledon between 1991-2001.
Capriati is also a former world number one in the game of tennis and was said to be a prodigy at the age of 13 when she reached the finals of her first French Open.
6. Simona Quadarella
2019 Italian Sportswoman Of The Year Simona Quadarella is amongst the world’s best swimmers. Quadarella holds a current record time of 15:40:89 for the women’s 1500 meter freestyle at the 2019 World Championships in South Korea.
With a total of six gold medals to her name, Simona has represented Italy in two major events, including the European and World Championships.
5. Rocky Marciano
Unlike Rocky Balboa, Rocky Francis Marciano was a real Italian-American professional boxer. Marciano was born on September 1st, 1923, in Brockton, Massachusetts. Rocky competed in the heavyweight division between 1947 and 1955 with a total of 49 fights without any losses.
In fact, Marciano is the only fighter to be undefeated until he retired. Let’s see Balboa try to do that!
4. Mario Andretti
If you thought the Mario Cart game had the only Mario who was a speedster, then think again! Mario Gabriele Andretti tore up the racing trifecta during his prime in the 70s and 80s, winning his first Formula One Championship race in 1971, the World Sportscar Championship, and NASCAR.
This achievement of wins in the racing industry has made Andretti a household name and Italian legend in Italy and the United States.
3. Joe DiMaggio
Joe DiMaggio deserves a second mention in this article simply because of his charismatic persona. The Major League Baseball champion was an Italian-American sports icon with nine World Series titles under his belt and having a trophy wife in the actress and singer Marilyn Monroe.
DiMaggio was living every man’s American dream. Everybody wanted to be like Joe. With TV commercials and endorsements from major corporations, DiMaggio quickly became an icon in the world of Major League Baseball.
2. Benedetta Pilato
With the record of being the youngest Italian athlete at the age of 14, Benedetta Pilato made his swimming debut at the 2019 World Championships in South Korea. He won silver at the 50 meters breaststroke event. He also holds the current Youth World Record of 29”32 in the 50 meters breaststroke.
1. Elia Viviani
Olympic gold Medallist Elia Viviani is becoming a household name in the Italian cycling scene. He currently rides for the UCI World Team Cofidis. With nine gold medals (seven from the UEC European track championships), Viviani has been monumental in the road track discipline as a formidable sprinter.
Italian-Americans and Stats About the Olympic Games
The Olympic Games are, without a doubt, the pinnacle of the athletics world. Italy performed amazingly in all the Olympics, racking up a total of 701 medals since 1902. 246 of these medals are gold. They’ve taken a total of 577 medals at the Summer Olympics and 124 at the Winter Games.
Piero D’Inzeo (show horse jumping rider), Raimondo D’Inzeo (show horse jumping rider), and Josefa Idem (sprint canoer) hold the record for the most appearances at the Olympic Games with eight appearances each.
The athlete with the most gold medals is Eduardo Mangiarotti, well known for his fencing skills between 1933 to 1960. Up to date, Italy has hosted three Olympic Games in total.
Up and Coming Italian-American Sports Stars
Italians boast a comprehensive catalog of sportsmen and women in different fields, and most of the youth have been making quite a name for themselves in the industry. A rising star in the tennis arena is one Fabio Fogini, who is currently number nine in the ATP tennis rankings.
He is joining the likes of Adriano Panatta and Corrado Barazutti, who are the only other Italians to make it to the top 10. Barazutti also happens to be Foginis coach.
Sara Gama is another rising star in the Italians Women’s National Football team. She led her team in the 2019 FIFA World Cup, where she played her captain’s role leading her team to the quarter-final.
Sara isn’t just all physical intelligence but has a strong mental intelligence as well with foreign languages and literature university degrees.
When talking about Italian sports icons, we are quick to jump towards soccer as the first reference. It’s no surprise, though, that Serie A is one of the most flamboyant leagues in European football with an endless cast of superstars.
From Andretti and Marciano to Capriati and Sacramone, the list of influential Italian-American Athletes is almost endless, and so are their accolades.
If you enjoyed this article, you could also read our blog on The Top 10 Highest-Paid Italian Footballers in Serie A.
Engage with us in the comments section by telling us who your favorite Italian-American athlete of all time is.
Community of passionate writers and content creators who share a love for Italian heritage, culture, travel, food, and the Italian-American community. Our mission is to celebrate Italy’s rich history and traditions and connect with others who share the same passion.