Leading up to the Olympic Games in Rio, there was already so much talk about some of the athletes. Ibtihaj Muhammad made headlines as the first Olympian to wear a hijab during competition. She will return home to New Jersey with a team bronze medal. Below are four other African American women who have already made history in Rio.
Simone Biles, Gymnastics: First, a little about gymnastics. There are four events in women’s gymnastics: floor exercise, uneven bars, vault and the balance beam. Gymnasts compete in each event and are scored by judges based on the difficulty of their routine and how well they execute the routine. Deductions are given for any mistakes and can sometimes mean the difference between winning and losing. Back to Simone. 19 year old, Simone Biles is arguably, the best gymnast in the WORLD. Prior to the Olympics, she was the world All-Around champion in 2013, 2014, and 2015. That means she completed in each of the four events and her total score was the best out of everyone that competed. In addition to the All-Around medals, she won individual medals in some of the events and the US women’s team, won the gold medal in the 2014 and2015 World Championships too. That brings us to the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Simone won a total of 5 medals in Rio: 4 gold and 1 bronze. The US Women’s team won gold. Simone also won the gold medal in the All- Around competition, floor exercise, vault, and a bronze on balance beam; she most decorated gymnast in United States history! Finally, Simone was chosen to be the United States flag bearer for the closing ceremonies.
Simone Manuel, Swimming: Swimming also has different events. Swimmers can compete in the freestyle, breast stroke, and back stroke style at different lengths, 50 meter or 100 meter. There is also a team medley where 4 swimmers compete in the event. Simone Manuel was a champion before Rio, but adding an Olympic gold medal to your resume is awesome. Simone earned the gold medal in the 100 meter freestyle and the 4×100 meter medley. The best part was watching her reaction after she realized she won and her interview after is an inspiration to all.
Ashleigh Johnson, Water Polo: The 21 year old from Miami, Florida is a student at Princeton University. Johnson’s also making history because she is the first African American women to compete in water polo at the Olympics. She said, “I definitely feel the responsibility to be a role model for other black people and minorities because there are so little of us in this sport. Just being myself, being black draws more attention to me. But I didn’t feel like looking different means I had to play differently, or had to prove anything to anybody. I felt like I could be myself and play as well as anybody else.” (Time.com) Johnson is the goalie for the women’s water polo team.
Michele Carter, Track and Field: Michele Carter won the gold medal in the Track and Field shot put. Carter is another athlete making history since she is the first American woman to win gold in this event. It has to be cool to win a gold medal in the Olympics. It’s even better when your father won silver and is your coach. Michelle’s father, Michael, won a silver medal in the same event at the 1984 Olympic Games, which were held in Los Angeles California. He was also a defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers and won three Super Bowls with the team. Mr. Carter was beyond ecstatic for his daughter’s victory. “It’s no comparison,” he said. “With a Super Bowl, you’ve got a chance to win it every year. This only comes around once every four years or once in a lifetime. I’m numb right now.” (USAtoday.com). Michelle is a great example of how giving all you got, even when others don’t think you can do it, pays off. In addition, Michelle is promoting body image for all women. Her program You Throw Girl aims to help women build confidence. Check out this article from The New Yorker.