Beijing Gold Rush starts Saturday
Over 10,000 athletes have come to Beijing, China with one of either two goals - represent their country proud or win a gold medal.
That’s the hope that everyone will be carrying as they march into the opening ceremonies tomorrow for the 29th Summer Olympic Games, which runs from Saturday, August 9 to August 24. Some are just happy to be there but others have high expectations of coming back with some hardware.
The United States is sending close to 600 athletes and here we’ll try to highlight some of the local faces that you’ll see competing throughout the next two weeks as well as notable Black athletes in other sports.
Tayshaun Prince (men’s basketball, 1st Olympic appearance): The Detroit Pistons forward and former McDonald’s All-American at Dominguez High School will try to help Team USA seek redemption and reclaim its first gold medal since 2000.
Lisa Leslie (women’s basketball, 4th) - In her final Olympics, the Morningside High School and USC alum will try to be the second four-time gold medalist for women’s basketball, behind Teresa Edwards. She’s also in the running to join a select company of Olympians who won a gold medal in an event for four consecutive Games (including Carl Lewis).
Allyson Felix (200-meter dash, 2nd): The L.A. native out of Los Angeles Baptist High School is looking to improve on winning a silver medal in the 200-meter dash at the 2004 Athens Games. She finished first at the Olympic trials in July and is the overwhelming favorite in the event.
Venus Williams (tennis, 3rd) - The defending Wimbledon champion is looking to improve on being eliminated in the round of 16 in 2004. One of Compton’s finest already won two gold medals back in 2000 and she’ll be back in both singles and doubles competition.
Serena Williams (tennis, 2nd) - Along with her sister, the Compton native won gold in doubles competition at the 2000 Sydney Games. She missed the 2004 Games due a knee injury but she’s back to compete in both singles and doubles.
Natasha Watley (softball, 2nd) - The UCLA and Woodbridge High School (Irvine) alum already won gold in 2004 and the sweet-hitting shortstop is looking for more hardware in Beijing. Unfortunately, this will be the last year for softball at the Games as the International Olympic Committee voted to drop it along with baseball.
Chaunte Howard (high jump, 1st) - The Riverside North High School alum won the Olympic trials after taking off 2007 to become a mother. Prior to that, she was the No. 1-ranked American in the high jump in both 2005-06.
Tina Thompson (women’s basketball, 2nd) - Just like Leslie, the Morningside High School/USC alumna will be trying to add another gold medal to her collection. The Houston Comets forward is already one of the best to ever lace them up and she’s ready to add another chapter to her legacy.
Torri Edwards (100m dash/4 x 100 relay, 2nd) - The Fontana native and USC alum finished second in the 100 at the Olympic trials and is on her own personal quest toward redemption. She was banned from competition from 2004-05 and also saw her relay gold medal from the 2000 Olympics stripped due to Marion Jones’ admission of steroid use.
Angela Williams (4x100 relay, 2nd) - Arguably the most decorated sprinter in USC history, the former five-time state champion at Chino High School is looking to help the relay squad improve from their disappointing showing in 2004.
Monique Henderson (4 x 400 relay, 3rd) - The former UCLA Bruin won gold in the 4x400 relay in 2004 and she’s looking to repeat.
Dawn Harper (110 hurdles, 1st) - An All-American at UCLA, Harper finished third at the Olympic trials.
Kobe Bryant (men’s basketball, 1st) -The MVP may have lost his chance to win another ring, but he can join Michael Jordan as the only players to win a gold medal in the same year as the Most Valuable Player trophy.
Candace Parker (women’s basketball, 1st) - The Sparks’ talented rookie will attempt to join a rare club of athletes who have won an NCAA title and a gold medal and an even rarer group who have done it the same year (Patrick Ewing, Christian Laettner).
DeLisha Milton-Jones (women’s basketball, 2nd) - The Sparks’ forward won gold in 2000 and is back for a second tour of duty.
Maurice Edu (soccer, 1st) - The Fontana native and former All-American out of Etiwanda High School is off to a stellar career in Major League Soccer, being named 2007 Rookie of the Year, and he’ll try to help Team USA to a strong showing.
Jeanette Bolden (track-and-field) - The women’s coach and Compton native will return to the Olympics 22 years after winning a gold medal in the 4 x 100 relay in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
Jonathan Williams (400 hurdles, 1st) - This former Bruin will be running for Belize.
In addition to the local stars, there’s also several notable Black athletes in other sports. Cullen Jones, the third African-American to qualify for the U.S. Swim Team, will compete in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay where he shares the world record.
James Blake will make his Olympic debut in both singles and doubles competition for the tennis team, Keeth Smart will make his third trip with the fencing team while his sister Erinn will be making her debut. In addition to Maurice Edu, the soccer team also features Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore.
Which of these stars will come back Olympic heroes? Time will tell but we’ll keep you posted on how our athletes perform as the best in the world show off their talents for everyone to see.