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Monica Puig makes history by winning gold medal

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Monica Puig has now earned a spot in Puerto Rico's history books. And she will be named in the same sentence along some of the island's legends.

Puig won the women's tennis tournament at the 2016 Summer Olympics. It is Puerto Rico's first gold medal in 68 years of competition at the Summer Olympics.

In fact, Puig is the first woman representing Puerto Rico to win an Olympic medal. Prior to her victory, Puerto Rico had previously won eight medals in the Summer Olympics -- six bronzes and two silvers, all by male athletes.

"It's amazing, I'm so proud to be part of history," Puig said. "It hasn't hit me just yet, but I'm aware that one day I'll look back and maybe add a little value to what just happened."

As soon as reality hits Puig, she will add a whole lot more value to what happened in Rio. She arrived as a heavy underdog who was ranked No. 34 in the world. It didn't matter. She took down Garbine Muguruza -- the 2016 French Open champion -- in the quarterfinals. Then Puig knocked out Petra Kvitova, who later would win bronze, in the semifinals.

And maybe this will be a little sweeter when Puig realizes the impact of her defeat of second-seeded Angelique Kerber in three sets (6-4, 4-6, 6-1) to earn her place in history with a gold medal.

"I didn't lose," Kerber said. "She beat me. She played close to perfection, made very few mistakes. She was everywhere. It was impressive."

Impressive as in losing only two sets in the entire tournament.

"This medal has given me a huge boost in confidence," said Puig, who has never reached the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam tournament. "I hope to really keep this momentum in the upcoming tournaments."

Before the gold-medal match, the 22-year-old Puig kept her cool despite feeling a bit anxious. After doing video research of Kerber, she entered Centre Court on a mission.

"I knew it. If I didn't win, it would hurt me for four long years," Puig said. "I played with all of my heart and soul. I had enormous faith in myself. It just raised my game to a whole new level."