Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

African American Olympians

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Shani Davis

American speed skater Shani Davis skates during a training session at the Richmond Olympic Oval at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Friday, Feb. 19, 2010. AP Photo/Peter Dejong.

Though African American athletes have traditionally participated in the Summer Games, by the late 1970's a handful began development for the winter contest. Jeff Gadley became the first African American winter Olympian in 1980 (Lake Placid), and in 1988 (Calgary) Debi Thomas won the bronze in figure skating, making her the first black athlete of any nation to medal in the winter event. No African Americans medaled in the 90's, but the 2000s introduced the most promising black winter Olympians yet. In 2002, the silver-winning U.S. Men's bobsledding team had two black members, and the gold-winning 2002 and bronze-winning 2010 (Vancouver) women's teams each had one. Slowly but surely, African Americans seem to be increasing their presence in the Winter Games—no matter which country they represent. In 2010, Errol Kerr, a Lake Tahoe-raised skier born to a Jamaican father and American mother, chose to represent Jamaica in Vancouver; he placed ninth, the best showing for a Caribbean nation at the Winter Olympics ever. Additionally, one of the most dominant athletes in speed skating history is black speed skater Shani Davis, who won the 1000-meter gold in both 2006 (Turin) and 2010, and a silver for the 1,500-meter race both years. While Davis was the first black athlete to medal in both competitions, he is considered one of the very best speed skaters in the world of any race.

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