The men’s USA Basketball team held on against Spain last Sunday to win the gold wrapping up the United States showing at the London 2012 Olympic games where the country earned 104 medals – more than any other competing nation. Their 46 gold, 29, silver and 29 bronze gave them 16 more than second-place China’s total and more medals of each hue than anyone else as well.
Despite this country’s checkered history when it comes to race relations, the contributions of Black athletes are essential to the U.S.’s ability to capture the amount of medals that they do each Olympics. Although they represent only 13% of the population here, Black athletes are directly responsible for 38 of the 104 medals won. That’s nearly 40%.
If you were to take away those medals, that would leave the United States with just 66, putting us third, behind China and Russia and only one ahead of the host country, Great Britain.
The biggest contribution made by Black athletes came in the track and field games, where 24 of those 38 medals were earned. Twenty of them came by way of individual performances and four were by way of all-Black relay teams. At this point in time, it seems as though no one in the world can touch the speed of Black people on the track. The Americans are challenged only by Caribbean nations, which consists exclusively of Black athletes. Obviously, Jamaica has been dominant the last few years with Usain Bolt winning the 100m in 2012 and 2008 for the men and Shelly Ann Fraser-Price winning the 100m on the women’s side. Yet the total medals pulled in by the Jamaicans still don’t match what the Americans were able to do.
Basketball is a sport that America has dominated since it’s inception and anything less than gold in that sport sets off all kinds of alarms here. The U.S. men and women were both able to win the gold this year; and while it takes 12 players to win the one medal, 11 of the 12 men and nine of the 12 women were Black. Seems safe to say that without their contribution, we would not have medalled.
Serena Williams dominated tennis, winning the women’s individual gold and, along with her sister Venus, secured the gold in the doubles. Cullen Jones swam for three medals in the pool, Jordan Ernest Burroughs medalled in freestyle wrestling, Paige McPherson and Terence Jennings both won bronze medals in Taekwondo for the women and the men respectively and the women’s volleyball team also won a silver medal with five of its’ 12 members being Black.
The darling of these Olympic games was Gabrielle Douglas who, despite competing while a handful of blogs ran with conversations about her hair and her mother’s bankruptcy, won the most prestigious medal in gymnastics, the women’s individual all-around. She also anchored the girls as they won gold in the team all-around. Aside from Michael Phelps, Gabby became the face of these Olympics for the U.S. and stands to make millions on endorsements over the next few years. As feel-good stories go, hers was probably the best in 2012.
Overall, the United States dominated these Olympic games, but if not for the Black athletes that have managed to live out their dream, this country would be nowhere near the dominant athletic force that it has come to be.