Gary Norris Gray- BASN Newsroom-Staff Reporter
Our diverse Winter Olympic team is trying to turn this American political and social bickering around with members from every community of the United States. They are doing it with 11 African Americans and 11 Asian Americans athletes. The negative antics of our political leaders and TV broadcasters cannot and will not dampen the will and spirit of Mirai Nagasu, the determination of Karen Chen, the diplomacy and stubbornness of the Shibutani siblings, the bubble of energy and joy from Chloe Kim, the brightness of Maame Biney, the youth of Erin Jackson, the strength of Jordan Greenway, the fight and grit of Shani Davis, the drive of the Black bobsled team and the joy of representing all the people of America.
All eyes were on the small nation of South Korea as the Winter Games began in PyeongChang . The two nations North and South finally started talking to each other and the sister of Kim Jong-un, leader of the North; Kim Jo-jong went to PyeongChang to try political diplomacy with their red clad “Army of Beauties,” Cheerleaders. This is what sports should be about making peace among nations.
Our newly elected officials, Vice President Pence and his party chose to ignore Jo-jong and her party.
Meanwhile racism has been pouring out all over the world with its bandleader Donald J. Trump.
An Australian TV commentator from channel seven created another controversy in South Korea. Jacqui Cooper; Olympic analyst stated that the Chinese all look alike in the women’s aerial freestyle. “Real nicely done, great control, very Chinese. They all look the same, they’re very hard to tell who’s who” in her Aussie accent.
A few days later Fox newscaster Laura Ingraham continued the racial verbal assault requesting Lebron James to just shut up and dribble the basketball after James criticized the president and his social policies, last the low of lows American Olympic fans rooting against an American athlete. Downhill skier, (white) Lindsey Vonn did so by four-10th of a second missing a metal. Vonn has also criticized the president and his policies. Ms. Vonn has received hateful tweets on line ever since. Lindsey won a bronze metal her last race as an Olympian but that did not silence her critics. This is where our beloved country is headed with this incoherent blind racism and vitriol.
Agent Orange our president does not like our Winter Olympic team because some of the athletes do not look like him. Half of the USA figure skating team are Asian Americans, which is a record. There are also more Black American athletes in South Korea which is also a record. We should champion this team because of its diversity but our president and his followers are choosing to ignore them, it is not working, the bright American spirit keeps shinning through.
This year team could be called America’s Rainbow Coalition. It was a sea of colors waving their countries flag in the white snow of South Korea Thursday February 8. This is what the Winter Games should be about, world unity, world peace, and world athletic competition.
Female athletes from the continent of Africa represented their countries in the bobsled competition for the first time following in the footsteps of the Jamaican Men’s Bobsled team. There is a new page being written for the Winter Games.
The American team did not start well with the controversy over the American flag bearer who is chosen by vote of the eight United States winter sports federations. The voted ended in a 4-4 tie this year between Erin Hamlin, a world-renowned luger, two-time world champion and four time Olympian and Shani Davis a decorated speed skater four time world champion in 1000 meters, three time 1500 meters with two gold and two silver medals and five time Olympic qualifier.
The United States Olympic Committee used a coin toss for this important decision. Hamlin won the coin toss and Davis was not pleased.
The committee should have had both of them walk out with the flag together in a show of team and country unity. Just as the North and South Koreans. This action or inaction set the tone for the American team the rest of the week.
The American team had high hopes at the start but have been stumbling and bumbling in the snow with only twelve medals.
A spunky little Korean-American stole the show the first week; the young 17 year old Chloe Kim captured the hearts and minds in the United States as well as South Korea. The host country loved her because she could speak Korean and write Hangul and was a very easy interview for Korean television and radio broadcasters with her bubbly bright personality.
Ms. Kim won the gold medal in Snow Boarding by using moves that no other competitor dared tried.
Four years ago Ms. Kim qualified for the Sochi Olympics in Russia but was too young to participate she was 13 years old. She could have won gold in Russia, that’s how good Ms. Kim is.
Japanese American Mirai Nagasu – Ms. Nagasu is from Southern California. Mirai wowed the Korean crown the first week in the ice ring with her Triple Axel as team USA wins Bronze medal, without Nagasu the Americans would have lost.
The pride of the Bay Area Karen Chen from Fremont, California skated her way to stardom, America’s quiet assassin. When the Taiwanese-American is on the ice she is in her domain with her stealth and stature. Her coach when she was younger was Gold medal winner Kristi Yamaguchi and you cannot go wrong being guided by another Olympic Champion. Chen has also learned from her experience in competition four years ago so she now has nerves of steel. Last year she finished fourth in the World’s Championship, she will not be satisfied with that this year in South Korea.
MAIA SHIBUTANI-ALEX SHIBUTANI-
The brother and sister duo and the most decorated of the three USA dancing teams. The Shib Sibs have won two world championships along with a silver and bronze. In 2014 they wowed the Russian crowd in the Sochi Games with their Michael Jackson free dance routine.
The Shibutanis will finally get to meet the middle students in PyeongChang they have been mentoring through video chat. They have also acted as sports envoys for the United States Embassy in Seoul.
In school the two were paired in Alex’s school because they were required to participate in a team sport, this was easy because they were already best friends.
The two were told repeatedly that they could not win because they were brothers and sisters and could not display the love angle in pair skating. Skating coaches wanted to pair them with other people but they would not have it. The Shibutanis defied everyone and won bronze in PyeongChang.
African American speed skaters Shani Davis, Maame Biney, Erin Jackson all are trying to win medals this week.
Seventeen year old Biney made history born in Ghana moved to the United States at the age of six and loved the thrill of speed skating Biney became the first African American female to qualify on the speed track.
Twenty four year old Erin Jackson is very interesting because she uses her roller derby experience in Jacksonville, Florida in her speed skating trials and competition. Jackson was Female Athlete of the Year in Roller Sports in 2012, 13, and 15.
Taylor and Gibbs
The married couple Elana Meyers Taylor and Nic Taylor–Bobsled
This will be the third winter games for Elana who married her coach Nic. She has gold and silver medal in the two-women bobsled team. She is the first driver male or female to win two world titles on a non-North American track.
This young man is amazing never changing his goal to make the Olympics. It may have been a different sport but he has made it to the winter games. Kinney watched the Atlanta Summer Games as a child and wanted to be a track star. He played little league baseball and pee-wee league football.
Chris was an All-American at Georgetown University in track and field. Whatever he tried in sports he succeeded so bobsledding should be easy.
In his twenties he quit his job and tried out for the United States Bobsled team and made it. He will be racing in the four man team this week with the support from his mom, Sandra Kinney
Hakeem played football most of his sporting career but an ACL- anterior cruciate ligament injury in his senior year at the University of Virginia ended that. Saboor started looking for another sport to participate in and found bobsledding. He will run the two man team this week.
A strong young Black woman that supports her teammates and who refuses to let anyone or anything get her down. A graduate of the University of Illinois.
Ms. Evans was another track star at Champaign-Urbana, another all-American in the 400 meters. His skills and speed translated perfectly in bobsledding.
Evans had concerns because the rides down the track were noise, bumpy, and frightening but she got use to it and kept going with her mom’s advice “Aja baby, you need to go back up that hill and give it another try.” She did just that and made the Olympic team as the brake-woman for the sledge driven by Jamie Greubal Poser.
Evans has her own saying ” Every morning you have two choices: Continue to sleep with your dreams … or wake up and chase them.” Aja is definitely chasing her dreams for gold.
Gibbs is another athlete that changed sport in mid-stream and continue on her journey. She played volleyball and Cross Fit at Brown University. Growing up in the mountains of Denver she would play in the snow as a child. Jillion Potter a United States rugby player wanted Gibbs to try bobsled with Mrs. Meyers-Taylor. Gibbs is now one of the senior members of the United States two women team. She won silver in the Bobsleigh World Cup Games in January in Germany with her new teammate Elana Meyers Taylor.
Gibbs was working in an office job four years ago in a suit she says this is much better and fun. She had a rough start but got into shape and started running in the morning to shed the baby fat which turned into muscle.
We cannot forget the Jamaican and Nigerian Women’s Bobsled teams. It’s been 30 years since “Cool Running’s”-The Men’s Jamaican Bobsled Team, now it has been renamed “Fire and Ice,” by these determined females, Jazmine Felator-Jamaican-American duel citizen, Audra Segree, and Carrie Russell. These women call their sled “Cool Bolt,” in honor of the Jamaican track star Usain Bolt and hope to make an impact on this year’s sled races.
This is the first time for both Nigerian and Jamaican female teams at the Olympics and they are having a blast with the other athletes.
Trouble struck the Jamaican team on the fourth day the Jamaicans had hard luck and had to purchase a new sled because their coach took their sled home to the islands. The coach was demoted and wanted to leave South Korea.
So if you have some spare change, send it to the Jamaican Women’s bobsled team on their Go-Fund-Me page.
The Nigerian women’s team everyone is watching because this is truly a first for the continent of Africa. Akuoma Omeoga and Seun Adigun went down the track in 52.21 seconds competing the bobsleigh event. They become not only the first in their country but the first in their whole continent to participate in the winter sport.
There is becoming a link between track and field and bobsled because the United States born Adigun ran in the 100 meter hurdles at the London Summer Games in 2012. Omeoga is a sprinter so this team could be the fastest on ice. Now if they could drive the sled straight and stay off the wall in the future we could be seeing an African Nation on the podium soon.
Ms. Adigun built the wooden sled herself to practice and trained with the U.S. team uniting with her bobsled sisters.
Both athletes had to raise the funds and find a way to get the sled to PyeongChang. The American team gave them advice and showed them the logistical hurdles on shipping their sled.
They may have ended up in last place but they sure had fun doing it and these too women with a vision open the door for other African teams to participate in the Winter Games. They are also collecting a worldwide following.
WOMEN POWER AT ITS BEST
Mr. Greenway played forward for the college hockey powerhouse Boston University-Terriers and has been drafted by the Minnesota Wild of the NHL. Greenway uses his six foot frame to school goals hope he can do this for team USA. He played for the champion World U-17 team and U-18 team. He also was on the championship World Juniors so whatever he touches turns to gold. He will have work to do to get this United States Olympic team to the gold medal round. Other teams have too much experience and without the NHL help Americans will be watching the Finals and Semi Final game.
Sarah Nurse-Canada – How could this be any better, if you are a hockey fan, this is must see TV. The United States and Canada will be going for the Gold AGAIN both squads do not like each other and have played each other the last four Olympic Games for Gold and Silver in the Winter Games, Nurse has been there half of that time.
Nurse has two gold and three silver medals with the Women’s U-18 and Four Nations Cup Finals, she is the Canadian scoring machine.
Sara is a Badger for life playing for the University of Wisconsin scoring two goals in the college finals in 2015. Ms. Nurse continues to play and score for team Canada in Korea.
The nineteen year old is the first female alpine skier from Kenya. She walked alone proudly carrying her country’s flag. She grew up in Austria and loved the winter months and worked with the United Nations on Environmental issues and climate change. She also adds to the history of women of color participating in the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.
Simander will once again prove to the world that, yes, Black people ski and do it very well.
Sabrina stated “At the beginning people looked at me-OK, A black skier always get looked at-but when your performances get better and you improve, you win them over.”
With that beautiful smile, determination, and skill Simander cannot lose.
The Ghana Winter Sports Department is aiming for a big push in 2022 and Frimpong will be in the leading role. ” There is so much talent in our country and they really want to try something new.”
Frimpong is another sprinter with dual citizenship of Ghana- and The Netherlands. A leg injury induced her to change from Summer Games to Winter Games and she is really making it for her home country.
So Agent Orange the world is turning its back on you and your government policies in Washington. The Winter Games are a celebration in PyeongChang because of its diversity because of its love and because of its friendship. Number 45, Mr. President, you might learn something from these young athletes.
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian, Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston, Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email Glcgray@gmail.com
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