The first lady and top gymnast
Let the Games begin
First Lady Michelle Obama greets U.S. Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas and her mother, center, prior to appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” at the Tonight Show studio in Burbank on Aug. 13, 2012. Douglas is the first Black woman in Olympics history to win the individual all around gold medal and the team gold medal in the same competition, which she did at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
The United States came out on top at the Olympics with 104 medals—46 gold, 29 silver, and 29 bronze—defeating second-place China with 88 medals and third place Great Britan with 65 medals.
The Olympic games are a celebration of excellence and athleticism. Whether we are cheering the Williams sisters in their gold medal-winning doubles match, Serena with her gold, the graceful Gabby Douglas in flight, or some of the many others, we are cheering their excellence, their indomitable spirits, and their drive.
We are also acknowledging the tens of thousands of hours that they must have put into practice.
Even as we cheer, there are lessons for each of us, both individually and in a social policy context.
If you don’t follow Olympic gymnastics, you may not have heard about Gabrielle Douglas before this year. But the amazing grace of this 16-year-old African American propelled her to Olympic gold last week, and she is the first African American to win an individual medal in gymnastics.
Indeed, her performance toppled the Russians, who have portrayed themselves as unbeatable. So unbeatable, as a matter of fact that the winner of the silver medal, Viktoria Komova, “sobbed uncontrollably,” according to a news report, because she so expected to win.
As the Olympics wind down, many Black athletes have triumphed, winning medals in multiple categories. Black American athletes currently hold 17 medals in total including swimming, tennis, gymnastics, fencing, and track and field.
However, in some cases, much of the spotlight has been shifted away from their athletic talents and onto more controversial topics, specifically Serena William’s C-Walk victory dance and Gabby Douglas’ hairstyle.
Candice Glover could barely remember her own name after she was crowned the new “American Idol” on Thursday.
“I’m still trying to process the whole thing, I don’t even know what’s happening,” she told the press backstage. “It feels amazing though that I finally got to this point; I’ve been working for so long.”