Afro in the Olympics: An Overview

The modern Olympic Games were launched in 1896. However, the first Afro to win a medal is
George Poage.     In 1904, George Poage  won third place in both 200-meter and 400-meter hurdles.
He attended the University of Wisconsin. Since then, scores of afros have excelled in Olympic Games.

J.B. Taylor: the first Afro to win a gold medal. This was in 1908, in London in the 1,600-meter relay as part of the
                     United States of America  team.
DeHart Hubard: the second Afro to win a gold medal. This was  in 1924, in Paris, in the long jump competition.

Eddie Tolan: the first Afro to win two gold medals. This was in Los-Angeles in 1932, for the 100-meter and
                     200-meter dashes.

In Olympic Games of 1936, held in Berlin, Germany:

Jessie Owens:  the first Afro to win 4 gold medals and to set three world recods in 100-meter dash, 200-meter
                   dash, and the long jump. He ran the anchor to break the world record in 400-meter relay.
Ralph Metcalfe:  earned a silver medal for running one second behind Owens in 100-meter dash. He ran on the
              record-breaking 400-meter relay team that earned a gold medal.

In Olympic Games on 1948, held in London, Great Britain:

Harrison Dillard, Mal Whitfield and Alice Coachman, established olympic records in the 100-meter dash, 800-meter run and women's high jump.
John Davis won a gold medal in weightlifting. For the first time, two Afros were on the US Basketball team that won a gold medal.

Afros continued to win gold medals in following Olympic Games.


In Olympic Games of 1960,  the Ethiopian Abebe Bikila , running in his bare feet, established both Olympic and World record in Marathon.    Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympics. Cassius Clay a.k.a Muhammad Ali, earned gold medals in light heavyweight boxing.

In the 1964 Olympics, held in Tokyo,  Bob Hayes broke the World record in the 100-meter dash and Abebe Bikila remained the world champion in Marathon.

In the controversial 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City, Mexico , Tommie Lee Smith, who won the 200-meter dash and John Carlos, who came third in 200-meter dash, delivered the Black Power Salute to protest against injustice in America.  Afros won in total 60 medals including 25 golds.  Bob Beamon set a record by two feet beyond the previous world record to win the long jump. The record stood until 1991.

Afros continued their brilliant performance in Olympics, especially in 1976, at  Montreal, Canada, where the boxing team lead by Sugar Ray Leonard and Leon and Michale Spinks took five gold medals. Edwin Moses set a world record in the 400-meter hudles. He will dominate in this event for the following decade. 

 Allen Coage,  was the first Afro athlete to win an Olympic medal (Bronze) in judo in 1976 Olypmics, in the heavyweight division. He remains the only American heavyweight to have a won an Olympic medal in judo. he later joined the ranks of professional wrestling under the stage names Bad News Allen and Bad News Brown.

In 1984, in Los Angeles, Carl Lewis won four gold medals to tie Jesse Owen's record.

In 1988, in Seoul, South Korea, Florence Griffith-Joyner, aka Flo-Jo won three gold medals and one silver. Her sister-n-law, Jackie Joyner-Kersee  started a long career by setting world records in the long jump and the heptathlon.
She is now considered the Greatest Woman Athlete of All times.

In 1992 Olympics, South Africa was allowed again to participate in the Olympics after a 28 years suspension in the Olympic Games for its apartheid policy. White South African runner Elana Meyer  and Afro Ethiopian  runner Derartu Tulu fiercly competed in the 10,000 m, won by Tulu,  and then ran their lap of honour hand in hand.

In 1992 in Barcelona and in 1996 in Atlanta, Carl Lewis won his 8, 9, and 10th Olympic titles in long jump and relay and subsequently retired.

@ AfroAmerica Network, 1999.