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Tips for talking about the Olympics with Spaniards

You’re in Spain, and conversation about what's happening in Olympics seems to be everywhere you turn. Control the perfect Spanish olympic vocabulay

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The Olympics are in the air. You’re in Spain, and conversation about what’s happening in Rio seems to be everywhere you turn. But what are people talking about and how do you jump right in there and keep up with the conversation in Spanish? Who are the most famous Spanish athletes? What are some common ways to talk about sports (and in particular the Olympics) in Spanish? Check out some of these tips for talking about the Olympics with Spaniards (in Spanish) and to keep up with all the chatter.


Most people are proud of their country’s famous athletes, and Spaniards are no exception. So learn who some of the big Spanish Olympic players are to be able to follow them in the games (or at least know which sport they belong to when you hear them mentioned). Who’re winning medals? Spaniards love it when their athletes win… How many medals have Spanish athletes won so far? Although it may be few, Spaniards will be sure to know which bronze, silver and gold medals their compatriots have taken home… Here’s a short list of some of the biggest Spanish athletes you can follow to get you started:

Rafael (Rafa) Nadal (tennis): Rafa Nadal is considered by some to be the greatest tennis player of all time. He is currently ranked No. 4 in the world (although he’s been at No. 1 in the past). Originally from Manacor one of Spain’s Balearic Islands, he is now competing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio after missing out in London 2012, and not having played a competitive match since the French Open due to a wrist injury. He has won innumerable medals and titles throughout his long career.

Pau Gasol (basketball): A professional basketball player measuring in at 7ft. He currently plays for the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA, but has previously played for the NBA’s Grizzlies, the Lakers and the Bulls. He is a native of Barcelona (not to be confused with his younger brother Marc Gasol, also an NBA player). He’s known for being an NBA All-Star and for winning two Olympic silver medals.

Mireia Belmonte (swimming): Mireia Belmonte holds five world records in swimming events and is a new Olympic gold medalist (as of August 10 in Rio!). She swims medley, freestyle and butterfly events. She started swimming when she was just five and made her debut at the London Olympics in 2012 when she was 17.

But remember Spain will be represented by 306 athletes in Rio this summer. So find out more about the rest of the incredible athletes that were homegrown on the Iberian Peninsula and are now representing in the big games.


Anotar/marcar = To score

Ex.: Gasol anotó 2 puntos en el último momento > Gasol scored a two pointer at the last minute.

Derrotar = To defeat

Ex.: Al final, Mireia Belmonte derrotó la australiana Madelina Groves en la prueba de los 200 metros mariposa. > In the end, Mireia Belmonte defeated the Australian Madelina Groves in the 200-meter butterfly.

Perder = To lose

Ex.: Nadal podría perder más de lo normal por la herida que sufre en la muñeca izquierda. > Nadal could lose more than normal because of his injured left wrist.

Prórroga = Overtime

Ex.: El partido terminará en prórroga. > The game will end in overtime.

Tiempo muerto = Time-out

Ex.: Están en tiempo muerto. > It’s a time-out.

Estar fuera de juego = Offsides

Ex.: ¡Qué mala jugada! El balón estaba en fuera de juego. > What a bad play! The ball was offsides.

Chutar = shoot

Ex.: ¡El delantero chutó y metió gol! > The forward shot and scored!

Meter un gol (coloquial) = Score a goal

Ex.: Los mejores futbolistas españoles meten más goles que nadie. > The best Spanish soccer players score more goals than anyone.

Tirar la toalla = Throw in the towel

Ex.: Aunque Gasol no juega tan bien hasta ahora en los juegos olímpicos, nadie cree que debería tirar la toalla. > Even though Gasol is not playing so well at this point in the Olympics, nobody thinks he should throw in the towel.


Spain is the most famous for soccer, tennis, basketball and even motoGP racing. It’s always (or pretty much always) a safe bet to talk about how great Nadal is, or the triumphs of Spain’s soccer players (although watch out, Spain is not participating in soccer in the 2016 Olympics). But it’s nice to know about some of the less well-known sports Spain excels at to be able to keep up with the conversation too. Check out this article about the sports in which Spain stands out to get a good idea of some alternative sports topics and some sports where it may be fun to root on the Spanish Olympians.


Maybe you won’t be leading this kind of conversation about the Olympics, but you may well hear plenty of references to the past, and nostalgia for better times, when things don’t go quite as planned for Spanish teams or athletes. Of course we all fall victim to nostalgia once in a while when our countrymen and women don’t place on the podium. Take a look at a few of the names that might come up when Spaniards start to miss the good old days and their favorite athletes from the past:

En tiempos de Luis Aragonés no nos metían ese gol. > In the days of Luis Aragonés, they never would have been able to score that goal.

Cuando Miguel Induráin competía podríamos estar orgullosos de los ciclistas españoles. > When Miguel Induráin competed we could be proud of Spanish cyclists.

Hay que revivir el espíritu de Juanito para triunfar. > We have to relive the spirit of Juanito to win.

Nunca habrá otra jugadora de tenis como Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. > There will never be another tennis player like Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

Raúl era el mejor deportista de todos los tiempos. > Raúl was the best athlete of all time.

So even if you’re not a sports buff, there are still some ways to get in there and start talking when the Olympics come up in Spain. Just learn about some of the best Spanish athletes, a few key sports related vocabulary words and a little Spanish history, then get out the popcorn and turn on the tube for a little Olympic excitement in Spanish!

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