By Mandy Day
AsAmNews Staff Writer
Amidst the excitement surrounding the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Fox News pulled John Moody’s opinion piece mocking the most diverse Winter Olympic team the United States has ever had. Titled “In Olympics, let’s focus on the winner of the race — not the race of the winner”, Moody slams the ever increasing presence of minority competitors on the U.S. Olympic Team. It is painfully obvious that he has done little to no research on the actual qualifications of the athletes he doesn’t believe belong on the team. Not that we would know who they are, because he didn’t name any. The bigoted hit piece exploits the hard work and accomplishments of beloved athletes of color in an attempt to prove his point. Moody failed. Bigly.
Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, there were few Asian American athletes for this “old” millenial to look up to. Kristi Yamaguchi was my personal hero. My family watched together when she won the gold medal in Albertville in 1992. I was seven years old. One of the highlights of my childhood was getting to meet her at a local exhibition show when I was eight years old. I still have a hard time believing my mom worked so hard to get us front row seats, or being able to hug my idol after the show. Besides Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan, there were few Asian American female Olympians to look up to in that era. Like a lot of other Asian American kids, I began cheering for the country of my ancestors, cheering for people who looked like my family members. Yuka Sato and Midori Ito were among my favorite childhood Olympic athletes.
More than twenty-five years later, I still cheer for Japan’s Olympians. I was up until almost five in the morning on Saturday watching Japan’s women’s hockey team attempt to defeat Sweden in the first match of the Games. The next night, I watched men’s ski jumping and luge, cheering for my home country and my grandmother’s. Being a diehard Olympics fan means watching as much curling and Nordic skiing as one does figure skating and snowboarding. Since Moody seems to know little about our “darker, gayer, different” Olympic team, let me take time to introduce him to a few.
Gus Kenworthy came out in 2015. He was already a famous freestyle skier after winning a silver medal in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, when he announced to ESPN that he was gay. For people who weren’t big fans of slopestyle skiing, he earned notoriety for rescuing four puppies and their mother in Russia during the Olympics. He stayed behind for more than a month after the Games ended to ensure the dogs and other strays were well cared for before securing the proper paperwork to bring them to the United States. Kenworthy is not Asian American, but along with figure skater Adam Rippon, they have become the first openly gay Winter Olympians on Team USA. Rippon also came out in 2015, but struggled for years to make the U.S. Olympic team. He finally succeeded at the ripe, old age of 28. Neither are Olympic athletes because they’re gay and it’s good optics to have their photos plastered all over network television. Both have made tremendous sacrifices to get to the level of competition they are at, just like every other athlete competing.
Maia and Alex Shibutani have been on the Olympic ice dancing radar for years. As teenagers, their dynamic skating made them famous among figure skating fans. Ice dancing is the least popular of the four figure skating disciplines in the United States, but the siblings from Michigan have utilized social media to bring attention to their sport. The pair are three time medalists at the World Championships; 2016 Four Continents Champions; and two-time Olympians. As of Sunday night, the Shib Sibs, along with Japanese American ladies skater Mirai Nagasu and quadruple jump sensation Nathan Chen are also Olympic medalists. They won the bronze medal with Team USA in the team competition.
Nagasu is making her second appearance for Team USA at the Winter Olympics after an eight year absence. The California native competed in 2010 in Vancouver, finishing fourth at the age of sixteen. She was left off the 2014 Sochi Team after a controversial decision by officials that chose the fourth place finisher at the U.S. Championships instead. On Sunday night, during the figure skating team event, Nagasu became the first American woman to land the triple axel in Olympic competition, and only the third in the history of Olympic competition. Nagasu’s near perfect performance in the free skate contributed to Team USA making the podium. The United States figure skating team has the most visible Asian American presence with men’s singles competitors Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou; ice dancer Madison Chock; and ladies singles’ Karen Chen joining the Shib sibs and Nagasu.
Barring a catastrophe, another Asian American athlete is poised to become an Olympic medalist this week. Chloe Kim, the snowboarding phenom from Long Beach, California, dominated the preliminary rounds of the women’s halfpipe snowboarding competition. Kim, a seventeen year-old Korean American, qualified for the 2014 Sochi Olympics after coming in second at the Winter X Games behind legendary snowboarder, Kelly Clark. Thirteen at the time, Kim was too young to compete in the Olympics and instead took home two gold medals at the 2016 Youth Olympics in Lillehammer. She’s won a medal (most of them gold) at every Winter X Games since 2014. Not only is Chloe Kim the newest, and possibly most recognizable face of U.S. women’s snowboarding, she’s the second person ever to earn a perfect score in professional competition behind Shaun White, and the first woman to land back-to-back 1080 spins.
Asian Americans aren’t the only ethnic minorities making a name for themselves at this year’s Games. The entire Nigerian bobsled team are dual American and Nigerian citizens. The three women, led by Seun Adigun, are positioned to become the first ever team from Africa to compete in the two person event (the only bobsled event for women) at the Games. They are joined by Nigerian American skeleton athlete Simidele Adeagbo, the first female skeleton competitor from Africa and the first Black woman to compete in the sport at the Olympics.
Another first at this year’s Games will be a female Jamaican bobsled team, thirty years after the male Jamaican bobsled team debuted at the Calgary Olympics. Led by Jamaican American Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, who drove for the United States in Sochi, the three woman team hopes to inspire a new generation of kids to pursue winter sports. In a moving interview last Saturday, Fenlator-Victorian emphasized how important it is for kids to see people who look like them on the world’s biggest stage:
“It’s important to me that little girls and and boys see someone that looks like them, talks like them, has the same culture as them, has crazy curly hair and wears it natural, has brown skin included in different things in this world. When you grow up and you don’t see that, you feel like you can’t do it and that is not right.”
While the Games have been overshadowed by controversy surrounding Russian doping and questions about the motives of North Korea’s regime, the Olympics are supposed to be a time of unity and hope. Where North and South Koreans compete together to signal that there is at least one place and one time where the two can work together toward a common goal. Yet, some seem determined to undermine the whole purpose of the Games. John Moody seems deeply disturbed by the success of athletes of color from the United States. His article mirrored opinions shared by White supremacists and separatists. He dismisses their sacrifices, the decades of hard work many of them have put in; the injuries; the financial costs; their families’ sacrifices, all to take some cheap shots in an op-ed oozing with hate. If he has a problem supporting athletes of color, might I suggest changing allegiances to Norway or Finland. Either way, Moody is incapable of embracing the Olympic spirit. By the closing ceremonies, he’ll still be angry and bitter, and the U.S. is likely to sit near the top of the medal count.
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