By Angel Johnson and Veronica Mackey
Despite a myriad of problems facing the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, young athletes from around the world are focused on one thing and one thing only—winning the gold. Here’s a look at a few shining stars on Team USA:
Gabby is back.
The U.S Olympic gymnastics team is more diverse this year. Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez were selected to be on Team USA in gymnastic competition. Douglas and Biles are both African American and Hernandez is the first Latina to compete since 2004. USA Today says this team is a reflection of what America really looks like.
In 2012 Douglas was a part of the Fierce Five Olympic team in London. She was the first African American woman to win the all-around championship title. She also won a silver medal in the world championship last year.
Blies is the first African American woman to win three world championships in a row. Over the years, she won 14 world championship medals. Her wins didn’t come easy. She was born to a mother addicted to drugs and alcohol. At a young age, Blies was placed in foster care and when she was six her grandparents adopted her. She pushed through her hardships and has become a champion.
Hernandez is the first Puerto Rican to compete on Team USA. She started gymnastics when she was five years-old and has had the same coach. Not only is she the first Puerto Rican but, Hernandez is also the youngest, she just turned 16 in June. She is known as the human emoji because of her versatile facials throughout her performances.
Each of the girls on the team this year are unique. They have different body builds, hair textures and eye colors. A diverse team like this, helps to inspire youth from different backgrounds because they see people who look like them. Back in 2012 a young girl named Mya and her father Marshall attended Gabby Douglas’ tryouts in San Jose. The young girl was ecstatic because Douglas looked like her. Mya began to mimic Douglas’ floor routine. She told her father that she was going to be the next Gabby Douglas. A couple months later, Mya met Douglas backstage.
Today Mya is a four-time competitive gymnast. Douglas said she never thought she would be this influential to African American girls in the community but it’s amazing. Team USA is scheduled to compete on Sunday, August 7th.
Can the men continue their winning streak?
For the past six Summer Olympics, Team USA has won more medals—more gold—than any other nation in track and field competition. The 2016 men’s team, however, is “chock full of youth and inexperience,” according to the Washington Post.
Matthew Centrowitz has a bronze and silver medal in the 1,500-meter from the 2011 and 2013 world championships. He’s still going for the gold. He has set personal bests in the 800 (1:44.62); 1,500 (3:30.40); mile (3:50.53) and 5,000 (13:20.06) since the London Olympics.
Devon Allen won his first U.S. national title in 2014 but there was no world championship or Olympics that year. He returned to football in the fall and suffered a knee injury that would force him to miss the 2015 outdoor track season. He later returned and won the 2016 NCAA title in the 110-meter hurdle, earning him a spot on Team USA.
Boris Berian ran 1:43.34 to become the fifth-fastest American 800-meter runner, and has proved himself a winner on and off the track. We won gold at 2016 world indoor championships in March, while holding down a job at McDonalds. Nike sued the runner over a contract dispute, but dropped the lawsuit ahead of the Olympic trials. Berian became a hero in the case that brought attention to athlete sponsorship issues in track and field.
Bernard Lagat is headed to his fifth Olympics and will become the oldest U.S. distance runner in history. He won a bronze and silver in the 1,500 meters and 2,000 meters, respectively, in the 2004 Olympics, while competing for Kenya. He became an American citizen in 2005 and went on to compete in Beijing and London.
Tyson Gay competed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, placing fourth in the men's 100-meter dash in 2012. The Lexington, Kentucky native has been ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100-meter twice in his career. However, a hamstring injury in 2008 prevented Gay from making it to the finals in the 100 at the 2008 Olympic Games. He placed fourth in the 100 at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, finishing behind American sprinter Justin Gatlin.
In July 2013, Gay publicly announced that he had tested positive for an unnamed banned substance two months earlier, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “I don't have any sabotage story. I don't have any lies ... I basically put my trust in someone and I was let down,” Gay said.
Gay is considered the one man who could stop Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt—the first man in history to win both the 100-meter and 200-meter races in world record times in 2008. Four years later, at the London Olympics, he became the first man to win gold medals in both the 100 and 200 at consecutive Olympic Games and the first man in history to set three world records in a single Olympic Games competition. The Rio Olympics will be Bolt’s last global competition. He retires next month at age 30.
First Refugee Team
In March 2016 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach declared that the IOC would choose five to ten refugees to compete at the Rio Olympics, in the context of the "worldwide refugee crisis.” The athletes will compete under the Olympic Flag and will be called "Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes.”
The refugee track and field team includes: James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel, Paulo Lokoro, Rose Lokonyen, and Anjelina Lohalith from South Sudan; and Yonas Kinde from Ethiopia. Swimmers include: Rami Anis and Yusra Mardini from Syria. Popole Misenga and Yolande Mabika are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They will compete in the judo competition.
The Rio Summer Olympic Games will be televised from August 5 through August 21 on NBC. Check local listings for event times.