Black women make a huge mark on the Olympics
By Dr. Boyce Watkins
Some have speculated on whether this has been the Olympics for women. Women are competing in record numbers, and they’ve also hogged up as many headlines as the men. But if this has been the Olympics for women, Black women have been driving the bus and dominating, much more so than the guys.
The US women’s 4×400 meter relay finished up the astonishing feet of the 4×100 meter relay by simply, demolishing the competition. The 3.36 second margin of victory was the largest since 1976. Allyson Felix, who also participated in the world record-shattering 4×100 meter relay, ran on the 4×400 meter relay as well. This shows tremendous diversity in her sprinting ability and makes her one of the most decorated female sprinters in the history of the world.
Felix became the first US woman to win three gold medals since 1988, when Florence Griffith-Joyner did the same thing. Starting in her first Olympics at the age of 18, the 26- year old Felix has quite a few years to go. It is also unknown to most that Felix nearly medaled in the 100 meters, placing fifth place in that event. Her split time of 47.8 seconds in the 400 meters also means that she could have easily competed in that event too.
When you add the feats of the women’s relays, Felix in the 200 meters, Gabby Douglas in gymnastics and Claressa Shields’ domination in women’s boxing, it’s hard not to argue that Black women haven’t left their mark on these Olympics. Other athletes have done a wonderful job, but the “sistuhs” have shown up in full force.
The dominance of Black female athletes, as well as striking images of perfectly toned abs and beautiful ebony smiles, inspires most of us to get to the gym and find our real bodies underneath that entire cozy soul food cushion we’ve collected over the years. It also speaks volumes to those who think that trips to the hair dresser should supersede the importance of remaining physically fit. Almost none of the women with gold medals around their necks were thinking about how their hair looked before the competition. Instead, they were simply focused on being the best that they could be.
As the father of three girls who were all outstanding track and field athletes, I can appreciate the hard work and discipline it took for these women to become the remarkable human beings that they’ve become. In high school, I was captain of my track team, and I once coached the West Side Track Club in my hometown of Louisville, Ky. My love for the sport has allowed me to see up close how sports can transform lives and work wonders in building the self-esteem of our young people. Our community’s esteem also elevates as we witness the heroics of these Black female gladiators from 5,000 miles away.
These women not only push us all to do better when it comes to personal health, but they in-spire our community as well. Way to go ladies, we’re proud of you. You also represent the very best that our country has to offer.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.