Black Women Olympian Successes: Are we being set up for failure?

Now more than ever, we have witnessed black women on USA Olympic teams. Not only are they representing black women, but they are setting ground-breaking records. Names such as Simone Biles and Sha’carri Richardson are figures that young black girls will look up to fulfill their athletic dreams. Although we see more representation, there are still hurdles we have to clear that other Olympians most likely won’t face.

Simone Biles is known to be one of the most skilled and decorated gymnasts ever. She’s even had moves named after her that have never been performed before! Though Biles is undoubtedly one of the most skilled performers of the sport, there are still plenty who try to discredit her competence. Biles recently performed at an Olympic trial meet where she performed a Yurchenko double pike. While this is a highly strenuous move and has never been completed by another woman, the judges were not impressed. The judges scored Biles with a 6.6, which is close to her competitors. As any competitor would feel frustration after feeling discredited, Biles expressed that “ if it were anyone else they would give them correct credit.”

Another barrier that has been put in place for black female athletes is surrounding their hair. Olympic guidelines show restrictions on what type of swim caps competitors are allowed to use. Unfortunately, the swim caps approved by the Olympics are not “one size fits all”. Black women naturally have thicker and coarser hair than other races, meaning that the caps will not effectively protect their crown. It is obvious that the caps were designed to fit those of thinner hair. Soul Cap, a British company, recently designed a line of swim caps that can protect all hair types. Sadly, the officials did not approve the caps to be used for the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo. Alice Dearing is Britain’s first black female swimmer to compete on their Olympic team. Dearing is also an ambassador of the Soul Cap company. She has taken to the media her disappointment and voices how black people still face institutional racism despite their hard work and great talents. Dearing, along with other black swimmers, hope to see a change in the swim cap guidelines so that their hair isn’t the determining factor if they get to compete for Olympic Medals.

Sha’carri Richardson is another star who has gotten great recognition in the last few weeks. Richardson was set to compete in the 100 m race at the 2021 Olympics. Richardson had the world on her back cheering her on. Weeks before her first Olympic appearance, she tested positive for having marijuana in her system. Her positive test results went against the Olympics policies and immediately disqualified Sha’carri to compete in the upcoming races. The world has had a good deal of opinions on Richardson’s disqualification. Some argue that weed should not be a part of the drug testing for competitors, while others follow the ‘rules are rules’ approach. Either way, Richardson has accepted her consequences and will allow this setback to prepare her for a major comeback.

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