The 2016 Olympics has been nothing short of historic for Black Americans. Not only are there Black athletes in sports that are predominantly white, they are excelling and taking home medals in those competitions. Their international, record-breaking success comes at a time when Black bodies have little value in America. These athletes broke Olympic boundaries.
Boxer Claressa Shields earned a gold medal, making her the only American boxer to win two Olympic gold medals back to back. The Flint, MI native is a two-time Elite Women’s World Champion.
The United States dominated the women’s 100m hurdles. All three American runners earned a medal: Brianna Rollins earned gold at 12.48 seconds, Nia Ali with silver at 12.59 seconds and Kristi Castlin with bronze at 12.61 seconds. Rollins and Castlin have the same track coach, both of them using the technique of crouching down when jumping over hurdles. Ali attended USC and was the USA Indoor 60mH champion in 2014. This was the first time Team USA swept in the 100m hurdles.
Michelle Carter brought America its first gold medal in shot put. She threw 20.63m, outlasting the reigning shot put gold medalist Valerie Adams of New Zealand. The USA has not received a medal for this event since 1960. Also known as the shot diva, Carter received a bronze medal in the 2015 World Championships.
Tori Bowie has earned two medals during her Olympic debut. She competed against Jamaican sensation Elaine Thompson in the 100m and 200m dash. Bowie earned a silver medal in the 100m and bronze in the 200m. During her time at the University of Southern Mississippi, Bowie became the Indoor and Outdoor NCAA National Champion. She made a school record jump of 21’4.75” during her junior year.
After running the curve, Kerron Clement took the lead in the 400m hurdles, finishing with a 47.73-second run that was worthy of a gold medal. Clement won a silver in the same event and a gold medal in the 4x400m relay in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics. He is a two-time world outdoor champion.
Fencer Daryl Homer represented America in individual sabre category and became the first American to win silver in 112 years. The U.S. has not received a medal in the competition since Peter Westbrook won bronze during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Homer also competed in the London Olympics; he became the first American man to earn a medal in sabre at the senior world championships.
With a 27’6” leap, Jeff Henderson won gold in the long jump. This was the first time American earned a gold medal in the event since 2004. Henderson dedicated the gold to his mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. His coach is Al Joyner, the husband of late track star Florence Griffith Joyner.
Sprinter Dalilah Muhammad mastered the 400m hurdles, coming in first place in the final at 53.13 seconds. During the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregan, Muhammad had a final record of 52.88 seconds that was the first time a runner finished the event in under 53 seconds since 2013.
Stanford swimmer Simone Manuel earned two gold and two silver medals. Manuel is the first African-American woman to medal in the 100m freestyle; she earned gold in that event. Manuel also earned gold in the 4x100m medley relay. The Texas native earned silver in the 50m freestyle and the 4x100m freestyle relay.
Aston Eaton won his second Olympic gold medal in the decathlon. The Portland native is a two-time Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year Award winner. In 2011, he was the World Outdoor silver medalist; Eaton is also a four-time USATF Outdoor Champion.
Allyson Felix earned a silver medal in the 400m at 49.51s after Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas dived over the finish line. Felix, a Los Angeles native, is the most decorated American woman in Olympic track and field history with seven career Olympic medals.
Justin Gatlin battled against track superstar Usain Bolt to regain his title “fastest man in the world” in the 100m dash. Although he could not outrun Bolt (9.81s), Gatlin came in at 9.89s and earned silver for the United States.
Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first American to compete and the first American woman to earn a medal while wearing a hijab. Muhammad earned a bronze medal in the women’s team sabre. The New Jersey native attended Duke University and was a NCAA three-time All-American.
Fencer Miles Chamley-Watson earned a bronze medal in the men’s team foil competition in his second Olympics. Chamley-Watson won a gold and silver world championship title in 2013. He is the first American to win the senior men’s foil world championship.
Venus Williams participated in the mixed doubles tennis competition alongside Rajeev Ram. They went on a run that led to the gold medal match against Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock. Williams and Ram earned silver after being upset by the duo. Williams has earned four gold medals in her career.
LaShawn Merritt earned a bronze medal for the 400m dash. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he won gold for the 400m and the 4x400m events. Merritt is the four-time Outdoor 4x400m gold medalist in the World Championships and also a three-time USA Track and Field Outdoor Champion.
Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa not only won the gold medal for the 400m, but also broke Michael Johnson’s world record with a 43.03-second performance. His mother, a standout runner in the 1980s and 1990s, could not compete in the Olympics due to sanctions against apartheid South Africa.
USA Women’s gymnastics dominated with the help of Simone Biles. Her electric run in the individual all-around earned her a gold medal. Biles will leave Rio with four gold medals and a bronze.
Gabby Douglas returned to Olympic-level gymnastics, helping the ‘Final Five’ win the team all-around. She participated in the uneven bars, earning a 15.766. Douglas has three career gold medals, she also won a team gold medal in the 2015 world championships.
Christian Taylor defended his gold medal in the triple jump and now has two gold medals in the event. His teammate Will Claye earned silver. Taylor won gold in the 2015 World Championships and was a 10-time NCAA All-American. Claye was also the SEC men’s Field Athlete of the Year and the NCAA Outdoor Champions in 2009. Claye proposed to American hurdler Queen Harrison briefly after earning silver in the triple jump.
Black Athletes represented America in a brilliant historic fashion during the Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. America ultimately earned 46 gold, 37 silver, and 38 bronze medals.