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A look at Spain’s royal Olympians


As we are in the middle of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, we are taking a look at the royal Olympians from Spain – a country that has had no shortage of athletes with royal blood competing in the Olympic Games.

Both former King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía were Olympians in sailing, as were their daughter Infanta Cristina and son King Felipe. Their son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarín competed in the Summer Olympics, as well.

King Juan Carlos, when he was just Prince Juan Carlos, took part in the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany. A sailor, he competed in the Dragon class. Juan Carlos and his crew, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba Larios and Félix Gancedo, did not medal; the trio ended in 15th place. 1972 was the last year the Dragon class event was in the Olympics.

Images and accreditation badge for then Prince Felipe at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. Photo: Benjamín Núñez González (CC BY-SA 4.0)/Wikimedia Commons

Queen Sofía, born Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark, was also an Olympian competing for her home country of Greece in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy. Princess Sophia, along with her older brother the future King Constantine of Greece, were on the Greek sailing team. At just the age of 21 on her brother’s crew, she was a reserve member who did not actively participate when they competed in the Dragon class. The Greek team went on to win gold.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía’s middle child, Infanta Cristina, like her parents, competed in sailing in the 1988 Seol Summer Olympic Games for Spain. Cristina had the honour of being the flag bearer for Spain in the Opening Ceremony, but she only appeared in the Tornado class competition as a substitute in the last of the seven races. The boat was unable to finish, and Spain ended in 20th place.

The 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, USA would be where Cristina would meet her future husband, Spanish handball player Iñaki Urdangarín.

Iñaki Urdangarín competed in multiple Olympic Games: Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, and Sydney 2000. A member of the men’s Spanish handball team, Iñaki and his team failed to medal in their first Olympic appearance in 1992. Four years later, they would win bronze. In his last Olympic appearance before retirement in 2000, he would captain the team to another bronze medal for Spain. Iñaki was a member of the Spanish Olympic Committee from 2001 to 2005.

The then Prince Felipe also competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games in sailing in the Soling class. Felipe and his team finished in sixth place. The future King of Spain, like his sister four years before him, was the standard-beareror Spain in the Opening Ceremony.

King Juan Carlos’s sister, Infanta Pilar, did not compete in any Olympic Games but participated on the administrative side as a member of the International Olympic Committee from 1996 to 2006.

About author

Brittani is from Tennessee, USA. She is a political scientist and historian after graduating with a degree in the topics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in December 2014. She also holds a master's degree from Northeastern University. She enjoys reading and researching all things regarding the royals of the world. Her love of royals began in middle school, and she's been researching, reading, and writing on royalty for over a decade. She became Europe Editor in October 2016, and then Deputy Editor in January 2019, and has been featured on several podcasts, radio shows, news broadcasts and websites.