Amidst all of the tragedy of late, something about the upcoming Olympic games has me hopeful. It’s almost like what I call the “Christmas effect” where just for one day out of the year, everything seems calm and quiet. People are nicer to each other on that one day. People take the time to wish you a merry Christmas when any other day they would have avoided eye contact with you for fear you might actually smile and say “hello” when passing by at Target. And so it is with the Olympics. Every 4 years our country rallies to support our countrymen. We may have never heard of their names, but in those few weeks these athletes become our common bond and give us something to chit-chat with our co-workers about around the water cooler. For 2 weeks every 4 years we can put aside our differences and cheer for the same people, not because of their race, but because we all have one thing in common, we are all Team USA.
That being said, as a black woman, I am filled with pride in the fact that we will be well represented more than ever before this Summer Olympics in Rio (and not just because we can run fast!) We are diversifying in Olympic sports and Rio ain’t gonna’ be ready for the #BlackGirlMagic that is about to sweep Brazil in 3 weeks’ time! Here is my list of a few of the phenomenal sister-athletes you need to know before the games begin.
1. Simone Biles – Gymnastics
As I sit hear tapping away, I am watching the gymnastics Olympic trials and am just shaking my head as I watch the phenomenon that is Simone Biles! She is a tiny, powerful, ball of #blackgirlmagic that no one can deny. Simone recently made history not for being the first black person, but the first person EVER to win three consecutive world championships. She is literally the best gymnast that has ever lived and she is straight from my home town, whoooooop! All eyes will definitely be on Simone in Rio, as she delivers near flawless performances time and time again. Every time that I see her perform I feel as though I just gave myself a treat! I just can’t with Simone and you won’t be able to either, just sayin’. Olympic veteran Gabby Douglass will also be joining Simone on the USA Olympic gymnastics team in Rio.
2. Claressa Shields – Boxing
I love a good “Started from the bottom, now we’re here” story and Claressa’s life story delivers just that. Hailing from Flint, Michigan, Claressa was molested and raped as a child. With the help of her father introducing her to boxing she learned to channel her anger and pain into something positive. In August 2012 she became the first U.S. woman to win a boxing gold medal at the London Olympic games. Now 21, with the skill of Laila Ali and the confidence of Muhammad Ali, Claressa is coming for Rio, guns blazin’! After returning from the London games with no fanfare or endorsement deals despite winning a gold medal, she is determined for people to know who she is in Rio. We see you Claressa-girl and we are rooting for you!
3. Nzingha Prescod – Fencing
There are some events in the Olympics that I totally forget are “things”. Just like when you watch the opening ceremonies and you see all the people waving their flags, and you forget certain places are actual countries until the Olympics rolls around. I totally forgot about fencing, and to be honest, I don’t really get the ins and outs of it. When I think about fencing I think about Zoro or Inigo Montoya in “The Princess Bride”. But then I watched this Nzingha Prescod video and if that ain’t #blackgirlmagic then I don’t know what is! Nzingha was introduced to fencing at a young age when an organization brought the art of fencing class to the inner-city youth of Brooklyn where she was born and raised. Prescod has continued to hone her skills and climb up the world rankings, making history in 2015 as the first African-American woman ever to win an individual medal at the Senior World Championships when she took bronze and established herself as a podium contender for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Another important fact: looks like between the time she competed in the London Olympic Games and now for Rio, baby girl has gone natural!
4 & 5. Simone Manuel & Lia Neal – Swimming
Attention, Attention! Contrary to popular belief, WE CAN SWIM! We may not like having to “deal” with our hair while it’s under the influence of chlorine, but Simone and Lia are showing the world that we too are waterproof! For the first time ever not one but two black girls will be on the USA Olympic team at the same time! Not only are Lia and Simone amazing athletes, but they are smart too, both attending and swimming for Stanford University. You can check them out in Rio competing together in the women’s 4X100 freestyle team. Simone Manuel will also be competing in the 50-meter freestyle.
6. Jenny Arthur – Weightlifting
One might scoff at the fact that weightlifting is an Olympic sport. I mean, when you think of people who do the triathlon or diving, or beach volleyball, lifting weights doesn’t seem like such a big deal. That is until you see Jenny Arthur lift. The amount of energy it takes to lift that much weight is astonishing and she does it and keeps it cute too! Arthur is the first U.S. weightlifter to qualify for the 2016 Games, and will be the first athlete to represent Team USA in the 75 kg (165 pounds) weight class since weightlifting became an official event in the Olympic games in 2000. Not only is she strong, but she is also a humanitarian as well and known for her volunteerism.
The games begin August 5th with the opening ceremonies (which is one of my favorite things to watch). Join with me in cheering our girls on as it promises to be an exciting year for the Olympics.
For more from Brittany, visit Sideline Socialite
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