AAPI olympians have a long legacy throughout The Games’ history. Despite challenges of being “othered” or rendered invisible, many AAPI athletes have inspired others while making a name for themselves on the world stage, according to NBC New York. Winter Olympian Speedskater JR Celski and with more AAPI olympians talk about their inspirations for competing on a world stage.
Celski, born and raised in Federal Way, Washington, got into speed skating almost by accident. It was an activity for him and his brothers to let off steam while his mother worked late hours. When he decided to get serious about competing in the Olympics, he moved to Southern California with his brother, where he lived among a large Filipino American community, watching boxer Manny Pacquiao at the height of his career, and dedicating his own life to speedskating. For Celski, it was about representing his family, hometown, sport, and country.
In 1948, Filipino-American diver Victoria Manalo Draves won two gold medals before close friend and fellow diver, Korean-American Sammy Lee also won a gold medal. They both became the first Asian Americans to win gold at the Olympics however, not much information is accessible about Asian American Olympians who competed before them.
Also included is Olympic Takewondo Athlete, Paige McPherson who is Black and Filipino. She grew up in Sturgis, South Dakota to a “rainbow family” consisting of five children adopted domestically and internationally. She was first introduced to taekwondo because of her older brother, Kevin, who is of Korean descent. Their parents wanted to help her brother “understand something of his culture” then it filtered down to her.
McPherson made it through Olympic trials and will again represent the U.S. in taekwondo at the Tokyo games. Check out who else is making the team and learn about their stories.
Cover Photo Credit: JR Celski Twitter