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Black Excellence: 8 Best Olympians of All Time That Will Inspire You

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Black athletes have broken barriers and records at the Olympics. They’re some of the best Olympians of all time and compete in nearly every field, although they dominate disciplines like athletics and basketball. That said, the Paris Olympics promises to deliver more black excellence. These are black Olympians who’ve left a mark on the games.

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Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-4.0

Jesse Owens is one of the best Olympians of all time. Despite the widespread acceptance of racism during his time, he rose above it to achieve record-breaking performances. He attended the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany, at the height of the Nazi rule.

He won four gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, the long jump and the 4 by 100 meters relay. This series of victories from Owens is believed to have “crushed” Adolf Hitler’s Aryan Supremacy.

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Wayde Van Niekerk

Wayde Van Niekerk at the 2017 World Championships in Athletics. Source: Wikimedia licensed by GNU Free Documentation License

South African runner Wayde Van Niekerk shot into the limelight during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, after breaking the 400-meter world record. He clinched the gold medal in 43.03 seconds and was the first sprinter in history to run the distance under 44 seconds.

Van Niekerk won the Rio 2016 Best Male Athlete Award. After his Rio heroics, Van Niekerk struggled with multiple injuries but he’s set to compete at the Paris Olympics.

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Gabby Douglas

Gabby Douglas talking about returning to gymnastics. Video Credit: Inside Gymnastics Magazine

Many talk about Simone Biles but Gabby Douglas is one of America’s most talented gymnasts. Douglas has three Olympic medals from the 2012 and 2016 games. She’s the first American to become an Olympic individual all-around champion and win gold in individual all-around and team competitions.

Her equipment used during the 2012 London Games is in the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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Florence Griffith-Joyner

Recapturing the life of Florence Griffith-Joyner. Video Credit: TMZ Audio Network

Fondly referred to as Flo-Jo, she attracted much attention for her looks on track. Joyner wore makeup and was keen on her appearance. She was also questioned about her physic, which led to doping speculations.

Joyner etched her name in Olympic history with her performances at the 1998 Summer Games in Seoul. She won three gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4 by 100m and one silver medal in the 4 by 400m. Before this, she’d competed in the 1994 Olympic Games winning a silver medal. 

In 1995, Flo-Jo was inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame.

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Josia Thugwane

Josia Thugwane was a South African long-distance runner. He was the first black athlete to win an Olympic gold medal for South Africa. Thugwane competed in the marathon and won the 1996 Summer Olympics race in Atlanta.

His story was even more impressive considering he was carjacked five months before the games. Thugwane won the Fukuoka Marathon the following year and was awarded the AIMS Best Marathon Runner Award.

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Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt at the starting line. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-3.0

We can’t talk about the best Olympians of all time without mentioning Usain Bolt. His records at the games in his discipline are the best. The Jamaican is the only sprinter to win the 100m and the 200m gold medals at three consecutive Olympics (Beijing 2008, London 2012 & Rio 2016).

He also has four gold medals in the 4 by 100m relay. For his performances, the Jamaican was named the Track & Field Athlete of the Year and the IAAF World Athlete of the Year.

Simone Biles

Simone Biles performing a routine at the Rio 2016. Source: Wikimedia licensed CC-BY-3.0-BR

Another name we can’t bypass on our list of the best Olympians of all time. Simone Biles is the most successful gymnast in the world. She’s won seven Olympic medals – 4 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals. At the 2016 Rio Games, Biles won gold in the floor exercise, Vault, all-individual and team events and bronze in the balance beams.

Biles withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics 2020 Games due to twisties, and loss of awareness when doing twisting routines.

Carl Lewis

Carl Lewis talking about his career. Video Credit: Youth Inc.

Carl Lewis was a nine-time Olympic gold medalist and one silver. He competed in multiple events, the 100m, 200m, long jump and the 4 by 100m relay. At the 1984 Los Angeles Games, he won a gold medal in each of these events. Four years later in Seoul, Lewis was a 100m and long jump gold medalist.

At the Barcelona Games in 1992, he added more gold in his cabinet, Lewis conquered the 4 by 100m relay and the long jump. His last gold was at the long jump in 1996 in Atlanta. This is why he’s one of the best Olympians of all time list.

Who else makes your list of the best Olympians of all time? These black athletes positively represented our community, showing our abilities and pride in our skin. During the 2024 Paris Games, we’ll see more black athletes compete for glory. Who are you excited to watch?

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Agnes Amondi
Agnes Amondi
Agnes Amondi is a sports enthusiast who enjoys sharing sports knowledge. Over the years, she has also written on different niches, and she now brings that experience at Spotcovery. She writes sports content and also, Arts & Culture, Recipe, Beauty and more.


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