Blasian American Olympians

As we commemorate the end of the Games of the XXX Olympiad, let us recognize blasians who have represented Team USA throughout the history of the Olympics.

Tai Babilonia
Figure Skating

Tai with her skating partner, Randy

With partner Randy Gardner, Tai Babilonia was the 1979 World Champion and the gold medalist at the US Figure Skating Championships in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, and 1980.  Randy and Tai competed in the 1976 and 1980 Olympics.  They were medal favorites at the 1980 Winter Olympics but were forced to withdraw due to an injury to Gardner.

Tai Babilonia was the first figure skater of African American descent to win US and World titles.  Her mother was African American, and her father was part Filipino and part Native American (Hopi Indian). 

Sheila Hudson
Track & Field

Sheila Hudson (Korean-African American) dominated the triple jump in the US for years.  She started competing at age 10, took a two-year hiatus from competition when her family moved to Korea, and returned to track and field in high school.  She represented the United States at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.  Sheila was the only American to reach the finals in the first Olympic triple jump competition for women and finished 10th.  

Tora Harris
Track & Field

Tora Harris was a four-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Outdoor Track & Field All-American (1998, 1999, 2001, 2002) and an NCAA Indoor All-American in 2002.  Harris was the number 1 ranked high jumper in the United States, according to Track & Field News, in both 2002 and 2006 and was among the top 10 every year from 2001 through 2009.   He was a member of the United States team at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

His mother, Susan (Su-Chen), is Taiwanese, while his father, who passed away in 2000, was African American.  His parents made him take Chinese lessons when he was young, and he attended first grade in Taiwan.  Tora speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese.  His language skills made him very popular at the 2001 World University Games in Beijing, China, where he won a bronze medal.

Selected Sources:
* Tai Babilonia, Official website.
* HalfKorean.com: An online community for mixed-race Koreans, “Prominent People – Sheila Hudson“.
* USA Track & Field, Tora Harris.

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Blasian Olympians Worldwide

Ding Hui
Volleyball
CHINA

In April 2009, the Chinese Volleyball Team announced the 18 members of the men’s national volleyball team for the 2012 Summer Olympics.  Among them was Ding Hui, the first black athlete on a Chinese national team.  While Ding is the first mixed-race athlete to play on a national team, a number of foreign players play in China’s professional football and basketball leagues, and foreign coaches have worked with China’s national teams.

Nicknamed “Xiao Hei” or “Little Black”, by his team mates, Ding Hui is the son of a South African father and a Chinese mother.  A native of the east China city of Hangzhou, he speaks Mandarin and the Hangzhou dialect.  He is a Chinese national and was raised by his single mother, Yu Jianxiu.  Ding never met his father, who left China before he was born.

Ding Hui’s selection has stirred up some racial prejudices among his countrymen.  Commentators have noted that he has a “pleasant and perky nature” and is talented at “singing and dancing”.  On Chinese internet forums, he has been lauded for the “whiteness” of his teeth and the “athleticism of his genes”.

China’s black population is tiny.  However, the black population is growing rapidly.  One predominately African suburb in the southern city of Guangzhou is referred to as “Chocolate City”.  Since 2003, when China started pouring investments into Africa, there has been a significant movement of Africans in the opposite direction.   Hopefully, as China’s population becomes more diverse, future minority athletes will be recognized for their skills and performance, rather than their heritage. 

Cheltzie Lee
Figure Skating
AUSTRALIA

Lee was named to the Australian team, competing as one of the youngest Australians on the 2010 Winter Olympic team at the age of 16.  At the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, she qualified 18th in the short program, scoring 52.16 (her career personal best score), and finished in 20th place overall.  Cheltzie is working towards a spot in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Lee’s father is Chinese and was born in Bangladesh, and her mother was born and raised in Louisiana and is African American. 

Yvonne Kanazawa (金沢 イボンヌ)
Track & Field
JAPAN

Although Yvonne Kanazawa grew up in Sacramento and trained and coached at California State University, she competed for Japan.  “I was born in Japan.  My mom is Japanese.  So, I have Japanese citizenship only.  I’m not a dual-citizenship person.  So, I had no choice but to compete for Japan, and it worked out pretty well,” Kanazawa said.

Kanazawa is an eight-time national champion in the 100-meter hurdles with six records to her name.  In 1996, she became the first female sprinter in 32 years to make an Olympic team in Japan.  A Japanese record holder, Kanazawa again competed for Japan at the 2000 Olympics.  She was a semi-finalist at the Summer Olympics in Sydney and retired from competition in 2004.

Selected Sources: 
* Wall Street Journal: China,China Welcomes Chinese-African Player to National Team“, April 14, 2009.
* Cheltzie Lee, Official website.
* Yvonne Kanazawa, The Study of Racialism.

Blasian Americans at the 2012 Olympics

As we celebrate the beginning of the Games of the XXX Olympiad, let us recognize the blasians representing Team USA in London this summer.

CONGRATS TO LIA, KYLA, & PAIGE Blasian Olympic medalists for Team USA!

Lia Neal
Swimming 
Lia with her parents, Siu & Rome

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Lia’s father, Jerome, is African American, and her mother, Siu, is from Hong Kong.  At age 17, she is the second woman of African descent to make the US Olympic swim team.

Lia competed in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay at the 2012 Summer Olympics.  She won the bronze medal on Saturday, July 28, with Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy, and Allison Schmitt, behind Australia and the Netherlands.  The team finished with a total time of 3:34:24, an American record.

To learn more about Olympic medalist, Lia Neal, go to her official website. 

Kyla Ross
Gymnastics

Kyla with her parents, Kiana & Jason

 

Kyla was born in Honolulu, Hawai’i and currently lives in Aliso Viejo, California.  Her father, Jason, is Japanese and Black, and her mother, Kiana, is of Filipino and Puerto Rican descent.  Her look reflects the multi-racialism of Hawaii.  “We call it the quadruple effect,” says her father.

Kyla earned the second-highest score on the uneven bars at the 2012 Olympic trials.  Nicknamed “Mighty Mouse,” Ross, 15, is the youngest person on Team USA’s gymnastics roster.  According to the Olympic format, each team selects three gymnasts for each of the four apparatuses in the final – balance beam, uneven bars, vault, and floor.  Kyla performed on the beam and the uneven bars.  On Tuesday, July 31, the US women captured the gold medal with an overall score of 183.596.

To learn more about Olympic medalist, Kyla Ross, go to her official website.

UPDATED
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 

Paige McPherson
Taekwondo

A native of Sturgis, South Dakota, Paige currently resides in Miami, Florida.  Born in Abilene, Texas, she was adopted when she was just four days old.  Her parents also adopted children from South Korea and Saint Lucia.  Paige is half Filipino and half African American (with a little Spanish and Japanese on her Asian side), and she likes to call herself “Blasian”.

Paige is looking forward to her first Olympics after defeating 2004 silver medalist Nia Abdallah to earn a spot on the 2012 roster.  Nicknamed “McFierce”, she is the youngest member of the US national team, having just graduated high school in January 2009.

Since turning 18, Paige has sought to connect with her biological roots.  She has an older brother, who she has already met.  She also has a half-brother and a half-sister, and she has spoken to her biological mother.  Paige plans to meet all of them after the Olympics. 

Paige represented the USA in the 67 kg women’s taekwondo event. In the preliminary round, Paige secured a surprise defeat over Sarah Stevenson of Team Great Britain, 5-1.  She went on to win a bronze medal by defeating Franka Anić of Slovenia 8-3.

UPDATED
Saturday, August 11, 2012 

Selected Sources:
* New America Media, Asian American Athletes Represent U.S. at 2012 Olympics“, July 25, 2012.
* Mas TaeKwonDo, Paige McPherson hopes to bring home a gold medal“, July 25, 2012.
* The Epoch Times,Lia Neal, Olympic Star Rising from Brooklyn“, July 5, 2012.
* The Madeleine Brand Show, SoCal gymnast Kyla Ross brings poise, nerves of steel to London Olympics“, July 11, 2012.

Blasian Olympic Medalists

Bryan Clay

Track & Field

Bryan Ezra Tsumoru Clay – often referred to as the “World’s Greatest Athlete” – was born to a Japanese mother (Michele Ishimoto) and African American father (Greg Clay) and raised in Hawaii. He won the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and went on to win the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Bryan is among the very few decathletes to hold two Olympic medals.

Bryan had his eyes set on a third. He had hoped to become the only decathlete to win three Olympic medals.  Bryan Clay – the reigning Olympic decathlon gold medalist – was eliminated from the London Games after stumbling in the 110-meter hurdles at the U.S. track trials on Saturday, June 23, 2012.

To see him in action, check out this Olympic highlights video of Bryan Clay.

Peter Westbrook

Fencing

The first Blasian American Olympian was Peter Westbrook.  The child of an African American father (Ulysses) and a Japanese mother (Mariko), Peter was harassed by other children because of his mixed race.  His mother paid him $5 to attend local fencing classes.  She wanted to divert his attention to a sport that was similar to the style of Samurai fighting that she was familiar with in Japan.

Peter Westbrook was a member of six American Olympic teams – 1976 in Montreal, 1980 (US boycott of Moscow games), 1984 in Los Angeles, 1988 in Seoul, 1992 in Barcelona, and 1996 in Atlanta.  He won the bronze medal in Individual Sabre at the 1984 Olympics.  In 1992, he was selected to serve as flag bearer for the closing ceremonies, an honor conferred by a vote of that year’s Olympians.  He was the oldest member of the fencing team at the 1996 Olympics.

One of the first prominent biracial fencers and the first African American to medal in fencing, Peter began the Peter Westbrook Foundation in 1991.  The Foundation provides inner city children with access to fencing and works to guide them away from gang activity.  It is hailed as one of the most successful inner city sports programs in the country.

To learn about Peter Westbrook and his not-for-profit organization, visit www.PeterWestbrook.org.

UPDATED
Sunday, July 29, 2012