Isla den Nos Bida
100 years Refinery in Curaçao – 100 aña Refineria na Kòrsou
1985 – today
While sports had been an important part of Curaçaoan life in the century since the oil refinery was built, the decades since 1985 have seen an additional boost of international successes for Curaçaoan athletes on an unprecedented level. In a public relations campaign, PdVSA has sponsored numerous teams and sports facilities on the island.
As more Curaçaoan families migrated to the Netherlands after Shell Curaçao N.V. left the island in 1985, a large number of players with Curçaoan heritage found the way into premier league soccer and baseball teams in the Netherlands. As of the start of the 21st century, the national Dutch soccer, as well as baseball team, was powered by players whose roots lay in the former colonies of the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname.
In baseball, where Curaçao features particularly strong, this has resulted in the making of a Kingdom team, in recent years led by Hensley ‘Bam Bam’ Meulens, the first Curaçaoan who signed a contract with a Major League Baseball team in the United States. Following in Bam Bam’s footsteps, Andruw Jones from Brievengat went on to be a legend playing for the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s, going on to play for various teams including the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Currently, many Curaçaoan players are active in the Major League, including Andrelton Simmons, Mariekson ‘Didi’ Gregorius, Kenley Jansen and Jurickson Profar. Many were nurtured and educated by community leaders in baseball such as Frank Curiel and have come up through the Little League Baseball World Series, which Curaçao won in 2004. The Arabic community, which funded and maintained Tio Dao ballpark in Sta. Rosa, has also been an important pillar of the baseball and softball communities. In softball, the female team Pichingolo has been a champion and a local favorite for many years.
More recently, cycling also has become popular in Curaçao. While even the memories of the velodrome built by CPIM for its workers before World War II have long succumbed to history, many young Curaçaoans have been inspired by the Amstel Curacao Race. This race was held from 2002 to 2014 and covered a distance of 80 kilometers. As a result, several young Curaçaoans now enthusiastically embrace the sport, including Gyasi Sulvaran.
In track, marathons have drawn large number of participants since the seventies and eighties. This sport remained popular, resulting in several youth running clubs in the 1990s. From these clubs, Curacaoan runners such as Nathanael Esprit, Caimen Douglas and Churandy Martina emerged. Currently, Martina is the most popular Curaçaoan athlete, both on Curaçao as well as internationally. He won his first gold medal on the 100 meters at the 2002 South American Games in Belém, Brazil. Afterwards, Martina participated in four consecutive Summer Olympics. At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijng, China, he was disqualified for stepping on the inside line during the 200 meters finals. Since the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010, Martina has been representing the Netherlands.