The difference between the Winter Olympics and the Summer Olympics is like night and day or better — black and white. Lack of African American interest in the winter games is indicative of the level of participation of black athletes in the sports that are as white as the snow they are played on. Despite the disparity there are a myriad of reasons why the black public should support and patronize the Winter Olympics.
Comedian Chris Rock said it best when commenting on how black athletes dominate most major sports since desegregation. “Once they figure out how to heat up a hockey rink we’ll take over that too,” Rock said.
So why the disparity? There could be a top ten list for that but it could be as simple as lineage. How many African nations are in the Winter Olympics compared to the Summer Olympics? In the 2008 Summer Olympics all 53 African countries participated in the games with hundreds of athletes. Currently there are only six African countries participating in the 2010 Winter Olympics with a combined total of seven athletes.
Our African American lineage originated in those warm climates. How many times have African nations won long distance marathons as opposed to cross country skiing?
Even the Jamaicans, who currently have one athlete in the 2010 games (freestyle skater Errol Kerr), could not practice in Jamaica with their bobsled team because there’s no snow in Jamaica. But in their quest to be Olympic champions they captured the heart of a nation and stirred the pride of their countrymen and the world when they competed.
The Jamaican bobsled team fell short of the 2010 Winter Olympics and failed to qualify. But the story brewing in the United States is that of Shani Davis. The South-Side Chicago native is the world record holder and two-time Olympic champion speedskater.
Just how hard is it to win an Olympic gold medal? Davis became the first athlete in the world — black or white — to win the 1000-meter speedskating race twice after successfully defending his title. Davis has three more events before the 2010 games conclude on February 28.
Davis’ accomplishments should be applauded and supported by the African American community at large. How easy is it in a sport such as basketball to beat someone you’re superior too? It is the challenge of stepping out of your comfort zone and being the best at someone else’s game that distinguishes an athlete and makes him or her great. Combine that with the civic pride of supporting that rare black athlete that takes on the world in representing the United States of America and the legacy of the African American athlete. GO USA! –lenn durant