Black Women do Swim and Win Medals at the Olympics

Black women are  diversifying and excelling in Olympics, but much of the coverage has demeaned and minimized their accomplishments. This coverage exemplifies the almost impossible standards that are placed on women of African decent. Double gold medal winning gymnast Gabby Douglas is iratic with bad hair and her mother is represented as a single mother (instead of divorced) with out of control spending problems. Haters say Lolo Jones used her looks to cover up her lack of talent. Serena Williams was attacked by right wing pundits for promoting “gangsterism” in her victory dance, she and her sister Venus, British heptathlon gold medalis, Jessica Ennis are “too fat.” Despite the historic U.S. Jamaica track rivalry the women of Team USA like largely a second though except when it comes to allegations of doping thrown at Carmelita Jeter Others like the fencing team’s Nzingha Prescod and silver medalist in Taekwondo Paige McPherson are simply forgotten. Rush Limbaugh, who is known for his unhealthy obsession with the FLOTUS, used the criticism of Gabby’s hair to go on a rant about how fat black women are. Pot.Kettle.Limbaugh.

Lia Neal

The joke that black women don’t swim. The truth is swimming takes resources and access. This olympics is proving that trope is changing. Bronze medalist 17-year old Lia Neal was the second African American, but more press has been devoted to other swimmers who did not medal. Neal,  is also a spokes woman for an organization that introduces children of color to swimming and water safety, how many swimmers devote time out of their buy schedules to do that? Neal attends Convent of the Sacred Heart High School on a swimming scholarship. It’s the same school that Lady Gaga went to. She’s also part of an elite swim team at Asphalt Green on 91st Street in Manhattan. Lia who has virtually punched her ticket to any college and future opportunities she wants,  goes back to her senior year of high school in the fall. Neal will have college and four years of training before the Rio Games and I know that Lia will be harder to ignore in 2016.
In Beijing 2008, at age 16, Jennifer Abel became one of the youngest divers in Canadian history to secure a berth and represent her country at the Olympic Games. Abel and her partner Emilie Heymans won a bronze medal at the 3-meter springboard synchronized dive competition at this year’s games. A Laval, Quebec native of  Haitian descent started diving in 1996 and made her first senior international appearance in 2006 in at the Senior Grand Prix in Spain. In 2008, she earned a silver medal collected a pair of bronze medals on the FINA Grand Prix circuit the following year. She became the 2010 Commonwealth Games champion in both the 1 m springboard and the 3 meter synchronized springboard with, a college student, trains at the Olympic Pool in Montreal and holds the Canadian national record in 3-meter synchronized springboard.  After the medal ceremony, Abel said the feeling of winning an Olympic medal had not yet sunken in. “Since the beginning of the year we’ve been really nervous about that moment,” she said. “I think it takes time to just calm down and just realize it.”

Water Polo is seen as exclusively white, upper class sport. Krystina Alogbo, the team captain of the women’s Canadian water polo team is changing that perception. Although  the team did not make the final cut for this year’s Olympics (only eight teams compete in the tournament) , Krystina lead her team to back to back silver medal performances during the summer of 2009 at the World League Super Final and the FINA World Aquatic Championships earning MVP honours in the later.Growing up in the rough community of St-Michel in Montreal, Quebec. Alogbo lost  her brother in a drug related shooting. Alogbo found salvation in sports. She  has a  passion for the water polo and referees children’s games in Montreal where she has had  a big influence in attracting a more ethnically diverse group to the game.

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Olivia A. Cole

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