As the Olympic Games unfold in London, Southern Californians will be happy to note that there are a number of Black local athletes competing, not only in popular sports such as track and field, but in a few of the lesser known sports such as fencing and taekwondo.
In tennis, Compton natives Venus and Serena Williams are playing in both the singles and doubles matches. Venus made it to the third round in the singles, but lost to a Angelique Kerber from Germany. Serena is so far undefeated in the singles matches, and will compete again today in the quarterfinals against a Demark’s Caroline Wozniacki. The sisters will also compete together in the doubles matches against Italy.
Track and field events feature a number of local athletes, including first-time Olympians Bryshon Nellum in the 400 meters and Keshia Baker in the 4×400 meter relay. Olympic veterans include 2008 gold medalist Dawn Harper in the 100-meter hurdles, and 2004 marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi. Local runners include Allyson Felix andCarmelita Jeter in the 100 meters. The track and field events begin Aug. 3.
The women’s volleyball team has two Black Southern California natives: middle blocker Alexis Crimes, from Rancho Cucamonga and outside hitter Tayyiba Haneef-Park from Laguna Hills and Stanford alumna Akinradewo Foluke from Canada. Destinee Hooker, a graduate of the University of Texas and an outside hitter, is from Germany, and is playing for America.
The team has won all of its games, beating Korea, Brazil, and China. The next game will be Aug. 3 against Serbia.
Former UCLA student and first-time Olympian Sydney Leroux is a substitute forward on the women’s soccer team, which has won all of its games so far, defeating France, Colombia, and North Korea. The next game is against New Zealand on Aug. 3.
In basketball, L.A. Sparks forward, Candace Parker, is part of the women’s team, which has gone undefeated so far, beating Croatia and Angola. They will play against the Czech Republic Aug. 3 and China on Aug. 4.
The men’s team includes the expected players with ties to Los Angeles: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Kevin Love, and Tyson Chandler. The team is also undefeated, beating Tunisia and France, and will compete against Nigeria today, Lithuania on Aug. 4, and Argentina on Aug. 6.
Beyond Southern California, there are Black U.S. Olympians in other sports.
The gymnastics teams include Gabrielle Douglas, from Newport News, Va., and John Orozco from Brooklyn, N.Y. Douglass recently won a team gold medal. She will compete in the women’s Individual All-Around today, and her performance will determine her placement in the individual apparatus finals. Orozco placed eighth in the Men’s Individual All-Around competition. He will compete in a few of the individual apparatus finals to be held Aug. 5-7.
In swimming, Lia Neal from Brooklyn won a bronze metal with her team in the 4×100 meter freestyle relay. Cullen Jones from New York City won silver with his team in the 100 meter Freestyle. He will compete in the 50 meter Freestyle today. If he qualifies, Jones will compete Aug. 3 for a medal.
In fencing, Miles Chamley-Watson from Philadelphia will compete in the Men’s Team Foil against France on Aug. 5. New York’s Daryl Homer will compete in the Men’s Team Sabre on Aug. 3 against Russia. Nzingha Prescod from New York will compete today in the Women’s Team Foil against Korea.
The men’s wrestling teams include Ellis E. Coleman, Jordan Burroughs, 2012 U.S. Open Champion Justin Deshaun Lester, Spenser Thomas Mango, and Dremiel Deshon Byers. Thier competitions begin Aug. 5.
The Taekwondo competition includes two first-time Olympians. Terrence Jennings from Arlington, Va., will compete in the men’s 68kg. on Aug. 9 and Paige McPherson from Abilene, Texas, will compete in women’s 68kg. on Aug. 10.
Women’s boxing will be part of the Olympics for the first time, and Claressa Shields will fight in the 79kg. quarterfinals on Aug. 6. Quanitta Underwood will compete in the 60kg. weight class on Aug. 5.
In men’s boxing, Marcus Browne, Jamel Herring, Terrell Gausha, Michael Hunter II, and Errol Spence will fight in competitions from Aug. 2-12.