Monday, July 28, 2008
"In Honor of Top African American Olympic Pioneers"
Tommie Smith- The American duo snagged gold and bronze in the 1968 200-meter dash, but the receipt of those medals became a more lasting image than the race. Smith and Carlos, both African-American, raised their fists -- Smith his right, Carlos his left -- on the medal stand as the Star-Spangled Banner played as an iconic protest against racial injustice in America.
Jackie Joyner Kersee- Kersee is one of those untouchable athletes. Regarded as the top heptathlete and long-jumper, she racked up a world-record 7,291 points in her first of two Olympic heptathlon titles in 1988. With three gold, two silver and two bronze Olympic medals to her name, it seems obvious why SI named her the top female athlete of the 20th century.
Edwin Moses- In his first International meet -- the 1976 Montreal Olympics -- Moses won the gold in the 400-meter hurdles, setting a world record of 47.64 seconds. Though he was denied the chance to repeat with the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Games, he managed to win the gold again in 1984. Between 1977 and 1987, he dominated his event, winning 122 consecutive times and setting the world record four times.
Lisa Leslie- Arguably the best player in the Women's National Basketball Association, Leslie was also the best Olympic player for the U.S. team. Having led the American squad to three-consecutive gold medals from 1996 to 2004, Leslie holds team records for most points in an Olympic game (35), most field-goals made in a game (16) and is tied for most blocked shots (3), which she achieved twice.
Muhammed Ali- Before he was a professional boxing great, 18-year-old Cassius Clay, as he was called then, became an Olympic light-heavyweight gold medalist at the 1960 Games.
Florence Griffith Joyner- Known to many as simply "Flo-Jo," the late Olympic track star is the world record-holder in the 100- and 200-meters, the latter of which she set at the 1988 Games in Seoul. At those Olympics, she won three gold medals (100-meters, 200-meters and 4x100-meter relay) and a total of five medals in addition to her two silvers in 1984.
Wilma Rudolph- Credited for raising the status of women's track and field, Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in the sport at a single Olympics. In 1960, she won the 100- and 200-meters and was a member of the winning U.S. 4x100-meter relay team. In addition to her bronze medal with the relay team in 1956, Rudolph was dubbed the "fastest woman ever" after her performance in Rome.
Michael Johnson- Remembered both for his golden shoes and his speed, Johnson owns five gold medals and world records in the 200-meters, 400-meters and as a member of the 4x400-meter relay team. At the 1996 Games in Atlanta, he became the only male athlete to strike gold in the 200 and 400 in the same Olympics.
Jesse Owens- Against all odds -- athletically, politically and socially -- Jesse Owens achieved international fame at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin by winning golds in the 100- and 200-meter sprints, the long jump and as part of the 4x100-meter relay team. At a time when Adolf Hitler was using the Games as a vehicle to bolster the "Aryan race," Owens was cheered on by 110,000 spectators at Berlin's Olympic Stadium.
Carl Lewis- SI named Lewis ''Olympian of the Century,'' and with good reason. As a long jumper, Lewis was one of only three athletes to win the same individual event at four Olympics, starting in 1984. At the Los Angeles Games, he matched Jess Owens' 1936 four-gold-medal performance in the 100- and 200-meter races, the long jump and as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team. All told, he won 10 Olympic medals -- nine gold, one silver -- as a runner and long-jumper.
Bob Beamon- Between 1935 and 1968, the world long jump record increased exactly eight and one-half inches to 27 feet, 43/4 inches. In one jump, Beamon won gold and topped the world record by 21 3/4 inches, jumping 29 feet, 21/2 inches later, a record that stood for 23 years.