Biles and Manuel showed their skills and talents at the Olympics

Biles and Manuel showed their skills and talents at the Olympics
August 25
06:10 2016

James B. Ewers Jr.

Guest Columnist

The 2016 Summer Olympics recently concluded and they did not disappoint.

While much was said and rightfully so about the health hazards and infrastructure issues, the city of Rio de Janeiro was a magnificent host. Kudos and congratulations to them for pulling off an event that some months ago seemed almost impossible.

If you believe in diversity like I do, the Olympic Games set a really high bar. Men and women of all colors and shades gave us their very best and performed with great athleticism and passion.

Just watching the opening ceremony made me realize that the color of a person’s skin doesn’t matter nearly as much as some of us think it does.

Thank you International Olympic Committee for giving our minds, our eyes and our ears a brief respite from social justice issues.

Thank you International Olympic Committee for not posting security guards at the bathroom doors to determine the sex of those who used them. This issue seems to be especially troubling to the state of North Carolina, which is my home state.

The Olympic Games were designed to showcase superior prowess in a sport and they gave us enough highlights to last us for a long time.

Give Michael Phelps a standing ovation, as he could be the greatest Olympian of all time. His swimming skills are just incredible! He’s a bad man as he has won twenty-three gold medals in his Olympic career. By any barometer or scale, Phelps has produced at levels most of us thought were impossible.

I am proud to have Jamaican roots, so when the announcers said the name Usain Bolt, I paid particular attention. He is again the fastest man in the world in the hundred meters and won three gold medals at the Rio Olympic Games. Every time Bolt races, he carries an entire country on his shoulders. He loves the competition and responds to the pressure each time.

There were a lot of Olympic champions and they represented their individual countries well.  Refugees who performed under the Olympic flag were represented and performed admirably.

As I watched each night, two athletes gave me some of the most thrilling and jaw dropping moments. First, Simone Manuel, an African-American swimmer who attends Stanford University was the first African-American female to win an individual gold medal. That was simply outstanding as she brought home a total of four medals.

Simone Biles, an African-American gymnast is being called the greatest gymnast of all time. She collected four gold medals, three of them individual gold medals. Biles is 19 years old so her future is bright in whatever she wants to do when her career is over.

Manuel and Biles have carved out a permanent place in the Olympic record books.

In my opinion, what is so compelling about their Olympic run is the sports they competed in to win their gold medals.

If you are a parent, especially a parent of a child of color, don’t stop at the basketball court or the football field; go to a swimming pool, a tennis court or a gymnastics center. Manuel, Biles and the Williams sisters are showing us that success in these sports is possible.

Not only is it possible, you can become a star and rich, too. “The Simone Biles net worth total of $2.1 million has grown 1000% in 2016 from gigantic endorsement deals built on her gymnastics fame and excellence,” Money Nation explained to readers earlier last week. The publication added, “Just three years ago in 2013, Biles had a net worth of $60,000.”

I am sure that neither Simone thought about medals and money when they started out. Like most of us who started out playing any sport, it was just to have fun.

Their fun has obviously turned into fame and fortune. Their desire to compete increased at every level, so now here they are being beloved by millions of people.

A lot of boys and girls are involved in sports. Some of them will want to continue. As parents and grandparents, we will be involved in that decision-making process.

Sports, in my opinion, should always be fun. Learn to laugh at yourself, be a good teammate and don’t get too depressed when you lose. You noticed I said when you lose, not if you lose.

Now the Summer Olympics of 2016 are over and Simone Biles was selected to carry the American flag at the closing ceremonies. The next Summer Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo in 2020. You know someone at this very moment is in a gymnasium, on a court or in a swimming pool practicing to get ready.

That is the beauty of sports. The practices are what you do when the cameras aren’t rolling and the reporters are writing.

Let us wish all of those who are chasing the Olympic dream good luck. Who knows as they may be standing on the podium in 2020.

James B. Ewers  Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C Smith University where he was all-conference for four years. He is the President Emeritus of The Teen Mentoring Committee of Ohio and a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at

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