Barcelona’s First Olympic Winner

It’s true, a record 13 gold medals, and 22 overall were won by Spain in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, the most the country had ever seen during the modern Games.  But, when was the first medal won by a Spaniard, more specifically, a Barcelona born medalist? It was actually 1,890 years ago in 129 AD when Luci Minici Natali Quadroni Ver took home gold in the 227th Olympiad.

It must be said that in the 2nd century AD, Barcino (as the city was known under Roman times) formed part of Hispania Citerior one of the areas within the larger Roman Empire, so Luci would have been considered Roman at the time, but it is well documented that his birthplace was Barcelona, allowing for the link to the current Spain.  Excavations have wielded findings of his own testimonies where it is written, “colonis Barcinonesibus ex Hispania citeriore apud quos natus sum”, the colony of Barcelona of Hispania Citerior where I was born.  A copy of this stone is in the Joan Antoni Samaranch Olympic and Sport Museum on Montjüic.

Like his father, Luci Minici Natali, before him, Minici held many important positions within the Roman Empire over a stretch of many years.  Much of his career was made serving in various Roman legions throughout the empire but his most well documented success came with his Olympic victory.  Ahead of the 227th Olympiad, Minici went to modern day Tarragona and purchased the best chariot racer around to compete for him in the event.  His victory, while being a heavy favorite was quite documented and, surprisingly well known.  It is said, that 33 plaques commemorate his victory have been found throughout Europe.  So dominant was his victory, no damage was inflicted upon the chariot and he was able to make it an offering to Zeus following the event.

Archeologists in Barcelona have discovered that under the Plaça Sant Miquel, just on the outside of the Plaça de Sant Jaume, remains of the mosaic of the Frigidarium (cold baths) belonging to a bath house donated to the city by both father and son around the year 125AD.  A possible domus (house) has also been found to be in the same plaza, thought to be their residence.

Paying homage to the city’s first champion, a street was named after him in the Olympic Ring atop Montjüic. Today each Catalan athlete to compete in the Olympic Games is awarded the Luci Minici medal a link back to Barcelona’s first triumph in the Olympic Games, 1,863 years before the 1992 Games were held.

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