BLACK LIVES MATTER PART 1.
Thank you reader, for your continued support on this website while it has been quiet lately. Recently, I have been spending my time and efforts into developing my YouTube channel ‘Nayemma‘, which covers the same topics as this website (health, fitness and the Olympics). If you are interested, it would mean a lot if you would take a look at my channel and consider subscribing.
I am already a great admirer of all the athletes mentioned in this post, and I would have written this post anyway for the build up to the Games, regardless of the circumstances going on in the world. But, in light of recent events, I have decided that it would be greatly important to acknowledge and share with you, inspiring black male athletes sooner rather than later – particularly track and field athletes of the Olympics. This blog post will also be made into a YouTube video, so if you’d prefer to listen, please head over to the Nayemma YouTube channel.
In no particular order, it gives me great pleasure to showcase many talented black male athletes from around the world, both past and present, who are particularly inspirational, have made a difference for their communities and, made history! Please note this is part 1. There is a part 2, which showcases iconic and talented black female athletes. You can find that blog here and you can also head over to my YouTube channel.
America’s Jesse Owens is not only regarded as the greatest and most famous athlete from track and field, but is also known as a sports and cultural icon. In 1935, he created what is known as ‘The greatest 45 minutes in sport’. Owens set three new world records and tied a fourth record within 45 minutes, while competing at Ann Arbor’s (U.S.A) Big Ten Track. Not only that, in 1936, while competing at the Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany, in events including: 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m sprint, and long jump, he left as a four-time Olympic gold medalist – he was the most successful athlete at the 1936 Games!
The achievements at the 1936 Games were suggested to be much to Hitler’s disgust, who had planned on showcasing a dominant German team and overall Aryan supremacy. There is no evidence to prove that Hitler ever congratulated Owens. Although, many people at the time said they ‘saw them both shake hands’. Furthermore, the American President at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt did not invite Owens to the White House to congratulate his outstanding performance at the Games. This is because he was a racist; he did not support any anti-lynching legislation during his time!
Additionally, Owens did a lot for the Adidas brand. Adolf Dassler (Adidas founder) persuaded Owens to wear his newly created hand-made spikes at the 1936 Games. Due to Owens’ success at the Games, 200,000 paris of shoes were sold every year before World War II. This highlighted the immense power of sports marketing at the time and has been used by the biggest sports brands ever since! For example, look at the impact that Michael Jordan has had on Nike with his Air Jordans. Jordan is worth over $2 billion!
To prove the impact Owens has had in sport and in particular, track and field, there is an award named after him! The Jesse Owens Award is the highest accolade award that is given out annually to American track and field athletes. Many incredibly talented black athletes have received the award; American sprinter Allyson Felix (who you will read about later in part 2) is the only athlete to have received this award five times!
Tommie Smith and John Carlos
American 200m sprinters Smith and Carlos are the athletes behind the famous ‘Black Power Salute’ at the 1968 Mexico City Games. While on the podium, during the national anthem and while receiving their gold (Smith) and bronze (Carlos) medals, these athletes both raised a hand in the air that was covered with a black glove. This is regarded as one of the most political of statements ever at the Olympics!
Smith and Carlos state that this was a human rights protest as opposed to a black power protest. They state how they were protesting for the lack of black coaches in sport, lack of good housing for their communities and the lack of access children have in those communities to attend a good school. They took their shoes off on the podium to present their black socks, which is said to represent black poverty. Smith also wore a black scarf , which is said to be representative of black pride and Carlos wore a beaded necklace to pay tribute to African-Americans who had been lynched or murdered.
Regarded as one of the best sprinters of all time, American sprinter Michael Johnson is a 8 x World Champion and 4 x Olympic gold medalist. He won gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games (4x 400m relay), 1996 Atlanta Games (200m and 400m) and 2000 Sydney Games (400m). He is the first athlete to have won both 200m sprint and 400m sprint at the same Games – he won this at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Additionally, he is also the first athlete to defend their 400m sprint title (1996 Atlanta Games and 2000 Sydney Games). His 400m record was recently broken by South Africa’s Wade Van Neikerk, which Johnson observed from the commentator box!
American sprinter and long jumper Carl Lewis is a 10 x World Champion and 10 x Olympic medalist (1 sliver; 9 gold); winning his Olympic medals at the Los Angeles 1984 Games (100m, 200m, 4 x 100m, long jump) 1998 Seoul Games (100m, long jump, 200m), 1992 Barcelona Games (4 x 100m, long jump) and the 1996 Atlanta Games (long jump). Lewis was the most successful athlete at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Lewis is one of only five athletes to have won gold in their same event (long jump for Lewis) at four consecutive Games, in the history of the Games! The other four athletes are: Denmark’s Paul Elvstrøm (Sailing; 1948-1960 Games), USA’s Al Oerter (Discus; 1956-1968 Games), Japan’s Kaori Icho (Wrestling; 2004-2016 Games) and USA’s Michael Phelps (200m individual medley; 2004-2016).
American sprinter Harrison Dillard is the only male athlete in the history of the Games to have won gold in both the 100m sprint (1948 London Games) and 110m hurdles (1952 Helsinki Games). Because of this, he was regarded as the World’s Fastest Man and World’s Fastest Hurdler in 1948 and 1952 respectively. Additionally, he also won gold at the 1948 London Games and the 1952 Helsinki Games for the 4 x 100m relay!
John Baxter Taylor
Born to parents who were former slaves, Baxter Taylor was an American sprinter and he was the first African-American athlete to win an Olympic Gold Medal. He was awarded Gold at the 1908 London Games for the medley relay. Sadly, just 5 months later at the age of 26, Baxter Taylor passed away from typhoid fever.
Poage was an American sprinter and he was the first African-American to win a medal at the Olympic Games. He was awarded with two bronze medals for the 200m hurdles and 400m hurdles at the 1904 St Louis Games.
I’m sure you are very familiar with this name; regarded as the greatest sprinter of all time, Jamaica’s Usain ‘Lightning’ Bolt. He first appeared on the Olympics scene when he was 17-years-old at the 2004 Athens Games. Years later, he became a world record-breaker. Bolt is the current world record holder for the 100m, achieving 9.58 seconds in 2009 (Berlin) and also the 200m, achieving 19.19 seconds in 2009 (Berlin). He is the first sprinter to win triple 100m and 200m sprint titles at consecutive Games.
The ‘To Di World’ is known as Bolt’s victory pose, also known as the ‘Lightning Bolt’ pose. The gesture is a popular move in Jamaican dancehall and so this is where it originated from. It is so recognisable all over the world, that many people do it in celebration! Bolt says he wanted a pose, the same as Michael Jordan has one, and so he used that!
At his final Games (Rio 2016) his aim was to ensure he wins gold in his three events (100m, 200m and 4x100m) in order to get the ‘Triple-Triple’ – three golds in the same three events at three successive Games. He achieved this, bringing his total gold medal count to 9. However, one of his 4×100 gold medals was taken away from him and his team (Jamaica) because team mate Nester Carter had tested positive for drugs in his 2008 sample! Therefore Usain had to give back his 4×100 medal, leaving him with 8 golds instead of 9 (still very impressive).
Eliud Kipchoge is a Kenyan long distance runner who specialises in the 5000m and the marathon. He is an Olympic medalist, winning bronze at the 2004 Athens Games for the 5000m, silver at the 2008 Beijing Games for the 5000m and gold at the 2016 Rio Games for the Marathon.
In 2018, he set a new world record for the marathon, coming first place with a time of 2:01:39. In May 2019, shortly after winning the London Marathon, Kipchoge became the first marathon distance runner to complete the marathon in under 2 hours, with a time of 1:59:40. This new time appears in the Guinness World Records, however due to the way in which this time was achieved, such as the use of a pacer and, being handed drinks by a supporting team throughout the run, this time has not been acknowledged as a new world record! Nonetheless, we may just witness a new world record at next year’s Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.
Sir Mo Farah
Sir Mo Farah is a long distance runner, specialising in the 5000m, 10000m and marathon. He is Great Britain’s most successful track athlete in the history of the modern Olympics! To date, he has ten global titles! He has five gold medals from the European Athletics Championships alone, which makes him the most successful athlete in the history of those Championships!
At the 2012 London Olympics, Farah won the 5000m gold. He also won the 10000m gold, which was Team GB’s first Olympic gold for that event. This win was part of the famous ‘Super Saturday’. On August 4th 2012, Team GB won six gold medals; three of those were achieved within 50 minutes of each other. These were won by Greg Rutherford (long jump), Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill (Heptathlon) and Mo Farah. At the next Games, the 2016 Rio Olympics, Farah defended his wins, winning both the 5000 and 10000m again. Will we see another double win at the Tokyo Olympics?
Along with Usain Bolt, Mo Farah also has a famous winning pose, called the ‘Mobot’. This is where he makes a big ‘M’ using his arms and placing them on his head like the ‘M’ in the YMCA dance. The Mobot is another iconic mark that is recognised all over the world and Farah performs it every time he wins!
That concludes today’s list of inspiring black male track and field athletes from around the world who have competed at the Olympics. Comment down below on who your favourite is and why! Don’t forget to check out part 2, where we share inspiring female black track and field athletes.
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