The Crusader Newspaper Group

Golden Champions

By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader

While some smashed records, others made history. Some turned into overnight trailblazers by becoming the first Black in their sport to win a gold medal. As the games end, the celebrations begin in Black America.

The 2016 Summer Olympics is over, but many across the nation are still in awe of the unprecedented success of their African American athletes who turned Rio de Janeiro upside down. While the fire of the Olympic cauldron has been extinguished, the passion of numerous African American athletes still burns after an awesome and inspiring display of Black and gold. Blacks powered America to dominate the games with 121 medals. Out of 46 gold medals, African Americans won 22 of them. While people of color won 10 silver medals and 4 bronze ones, the success of African American athletes have shown that their talents are worth gold.

It was a stunning achievement in Rio considering that some of those gold medals were earned in fields that traditionally lack African American athletes, including swimming and gymnastics. The Olympics has shown us that Blacks in America can win at any sport if they are given a chance with equal access and opportunities. On the world stage these champions all belong to America, but in the Black community, they are part of us.

Some of them, such as swimmer Simone Manuel and gymnast Simone Biles hit the jackpot at the Olympics. While American women dominated many competititons, the games also proved victorious for their African American counterparts. And who could forget the 100-meter hurdles, where Brianna Rollins, Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali made Olympic history by sweeping the gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively. Clarissa Shields became the first U.S. boxer to win consecutive gold medals. While Biles became the most decorated U.S. gymnast in a single Olympics, Michelle Carter became the first African American woman to win a gold medal in the shot put competition. Sprinter Allyson Felix earned a record fifth gold medal after helping her team win the 4X400 relay.

If African Americans were their own country as the great Marcus Garvey imagined, it would have ranked 4th in gold medals, ahead of Germany, Russia, Japan, France, South Korea, Italy and Australia. Without its African American athletes, America would have been second to Great Britain (27) with just 24 gold medals. As in history books, America would not be the world power it is today without the contributions of a race that has given so much, but has received far fewer rewards.

Serena and Venus Williams were among a group of Olympic champions, who didn’t have their golden moment in Rio, but African Americans still racked up the hardware after some incredible victories.

Shakur Stevenson earned a silver medal in boxing, but even with this achievement, the young 19-year-old lifted American boxing out of a 12-year slump. No American boxer has reached the medal round in the Olympics since 2004. Stevenson almost beat his opponent, Olympic medalist Robeisy Ramirez, who won in a tough split decision. With mentoring and support from Boxing great Floyd Mayweather, Stevenson has a bright future, unlike the swimmer Ryan Lochte. While his antics sparked discussions of White American Privilege during the Summer Games, African-Americans represented their country with power and distinction. They have inspired many and made others dream. They are Black, proud and home with the gold.

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