Blasian Athletes Shine at 2015 SEA Games

The 28th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games were held in Singapore from June 5 to June 16. A standout in the 2015 SEA Games was the performance of Team Philippines and their Fil-Heritage athletes, commonly known as Fil-Ams. The SEA Games Chief of Mission Julian Camacho confirmed that the Filipino team had the most United States-based entries. The final medal count for the Philippines included five gold medals, with four attributed to Fil-American athletes.

Eric Shauwn Cray (June 9)

Eric Cray and Kayla Richardson, a pair of blasian Fil-Americans won gold in their respective 100-meter races, earning the unofficial titles of “fastest man and fastest woman in the region”. Cray clocked in at 10.25 seconds, while Richardson finished at 11.76. Cray went on to set a new SEA Games record of 49.40 seconds on the way to gold in the 400-meter hurdles, breaking a twenty-year-old record. Richardson also secured a silver medal in the 200 meters at 23.71 seconds. These two blasian athletes earned three of Team Philippines’s five gold medals.

Kayla Anise Richardson (June 9)

Following the SEA Games, Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) president Philip Ella Juico faced criticism for the use of Fil-foreign players raised and trained overseas to mask the lack of programs for homegrown athletes. Juico took exception to the criticisms, saying Fil-Americans, are, in the end, still Filipinos.

“We have 10 million Filipinos around the world. We are sharing our human resources with the international community. When they are there, they inter-marry with locals and beget Filipino children who are half Filipino, half foreign. If we can use half foreign Filipinos for scientists, teachers, or engineers, why not use them for sports?”, said Juico. “Why all of a sudden discriminating and frowning on this?, the former Philippine Sports Commission chairman added.

Juico said the only difference is that Fil-foreign athletes are based outside the Philippines by force of circumstances, and should not be stripped of their privilege to represent the country in international competitions. “Of course, we prefer homegrown talents but it’s not their fault that they were born there.”

Despite the criticism, Juico said they intend to recruit more Fil-Americans to beef up the athletics team. Juico spoke on this matter in a previous interview, stating, “If there are Fil-foreign (athletes), (athletes) with Filipino blood, why not? It’s a global society now, it’s a global community…if other countries can use this internationally-shared resource, why not us?”

Eric Cray – dubbed the “Usain Bolt of Southeast Asia” – responded to critics regarding the policy of searching overseas for talent with Filipino ties stating, “I just feel that if you have Filipino blood and you cherish the traditions of the Philippines, you know it’s a great honor for me to be able to represent and I am just happy that they allow me to.”

Selected Sources:

* Sports Interactive Network Philippines, “What’s wrong with having Fil-foreign athletes, says Juico in face of SEA Games criticism“, June 19, 2015.

* ABS-CBN News Channel, “New PATAFA head welcomes Fil-foreign athletes, coaches“, August 7, 2014.

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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.

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.