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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Olympians Past and Present


The very nature of the Olympics means that there are always firsts (fastest, highest, longest), athletes overcoming obstacles (literally and figuratively), personal stories of hard work and triumph. There are also stories of disappointments, pain, and missed opportunities.  The 2012 Olympics in London, England marks the 100 year anniversary since the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden when the “World’s Fastest Human” was not able to participate due to injuries.  Howard P. Drew, who set or tied every world record in his field between 1913 to 1916, was aiming for a record in the 100 meter semi-final when he sustained an injury on the track. He planned to compete once again in the 1916 Olympics, which were cancelled due to World War I.

Jesse Owen & his wife, Ruth, returning from the 1936 Olympics
The earliest African Americans to achieve firsts in the Olympics are George Coleman Poage, the first African American to win a medal at the Olympics in 1904; John Baxter Taylor, the first black person to win a gold medal at the games, 1904; William DeHart Hubbard, the first person to win an individual medal in 1924; Jesse Owens who was the first black person to win four gold medals and his teammate, Ralph Metcalf who won two gold medals in 1936; and finally Alice Marie Coachman who, in 1948, became the first black woman to win a gold medal at the games. 

Gabby Douglas, 16, from Virginia Beach, VA
The London Olympics is sure to produce many such athletic and human interest stories such as those referenced above. Dominique Dawes was the first African American female gymnast to go to the Olympics and, following in her footsteps, is The Flying Squirrel, Gabby Douglas.  

Another athlete to follow is Lex Gillette, the blind long jumper, who will be competing for the USA in the Paralympics.
Lex Gillette & guide, Wesley Williams












 For more stories about female athletes overcoming incredible odds to get to the Games, watch the videos about these young Muslim women competing for various African nations despite living in the African Diaspora.

The Sudan Female Running Team



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