African-American women made history long before the start of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. They’ll be competing in an even wider range of sports from swimming and water polo to rugby and taekwondo.
Here are just a few of the dozens of sisters to watch at the Olympics from Aug. 5 to 21 on NBC. It will also be livestreamed at NBCOlympics.com and on the NBC Sports App. The Paralympic Games are from Sept. 7 to 18.
Olympic Cred: The 6-foot-1 Minnesota Lynx forward played on the 2008 and 2012 gold medal-winning Olympic teams.
Wellness Warrior: The Seimone Augustus Foundation focuses on hunger and healthy hearts.
Olympic Cred: The three-time Olympian also has a world championship gold medal, NCAA title and WNBA championship.
Newlywed: Earlier this year, Catchings married Parnell Smith, who played basketball at the University of Buffalo and overseas.
Olympic Cred: The 6-foot-1 forward for the Atlanta Dream set Olympic field goal records against China and Turkey in 2012.
A Ballin’ Rapper: Her primary stress relievers are basketball and music. The WNBA’s 2009 No. 1 draft pick likes to record hip-hop, gospel and pop music in her studio, performing as Angel M.
Olympic Cred: With world, NCAA and WNBA titles, the 6-foot-tall forward for Minnesota Lynx helped the United States win Olympic gold in 2012.
High Praise: The former WNBA MVP has been called one of the best all-around basketball players.
Olympic Cred: In 2012, she became the first woman to win a gold medal in boxing.
Hometown Hero: A native of Flint, Mich., known as T-Rex, she’s featured in a 2015 documentary that bears her nickname.
Olympic Cred: The nation’s No. 2 fencer won gold in the 2014 World Championship.
Modest fashionista: A devout Muslim, she wields her saber wearing a hajib and owns the Louella Label clothing line.
Olympic Cred: Competed in 2012 Olympics; holds medals from World Championships and Pan American Games
Early Start: The foil fencer got her start at Olympian Peter Westbrook’s foundation when she was 9 years old.
Olympic Cred: Two Gold medals in 2012 and Douglas is the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the Individual All-Around Champion.
Challenge: Returning as a vet at 20 to a sport dominated by younger gymnasts
Olympic Cred: The perennial winner in all-around competitions is coming in blazing with three world titles and lots of fanfare on the balance beam and floor.
Like Mike? Biles has been called the Michael Jordan of gymnastics — tongue and all.
Victoria “Vix” Folayan
Olympic Cred: A RugbyMag 2013 player of the year, she is a key member of the inaugural Olympic rugby team in Rio. She was also on bronze-winning world team and two-time national championship teams at Stanford.
Like Lightning: A late-comer to rugby, Folayan is known for her speed, power and penchant for taking risks in this contact sport.
Olympic Cred: Won silver at the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and in London in 2012; going for gold in September.
Positive Outlook: “I can be as tall as I want to be,” said the former U.S. Army sergeant after she lost both legs in a 1999 collision with a drunken driver.
Olympic Cred: First place in 2016 Olympic Qualifying Championship for Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). In 2015, The No. 1 draft pick was the youngest MVP at 23 in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
Footwork: Won Golden Boot Award in CONCACAF’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament and in the NWSL in 2015 for scoring 15 goals in 20 games.
Olympic Cred: Broke a U.S. record with her first-place NCAA finish in 2015.
BFF: Making Olympic history with her friend and Stanford teammate Lia Neal — first time two black women made the U.S. swim team
Olympic Cred: The NCAA champion won bronze at the Olympics in 2012.
Multilingual: She’s fluent in Cantonese and working on Mandarin.
Olympic Cred: Won bronze in 2012
Mantra: Her three B’s: Breathe, believe and be yourself!
Olympic Cred: Seeded No. 7, close behind Venus Williams who is No. 5
Baby of the Bunch: At 21, Keys is the youngest member of the Olympic tennis team.
Olympic Cred: Making Olympic debut with three Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) titles this year.
Memorable Upset: In 2013, the then 19-year-old beat Serena Williams in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. She lost in the semi-finals against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who went on to win the singles championship that year.
Olympic Cred: Four-time Olympic gold medalist with 22 Grand Slam titles as a pro
A Special Feeling: “All of our lives, as tennis players, we dream of winning Grand Slams,” Williams told reporters in Rio. “And then there’s the Olympics, which is totally different because you are playing for your country. When I held my first gold medal, it was a feeling I had never expected.”
Olympic Cred: Four-time Olympic gold medalist with 23 Grand Slam titles as a pro
Sister Act: The Williams are undefeated at 15-0 in Olympic doubles. Off court, they became the first African-American women to be NFL franchise owners in 2009 with their shares in the Miami Dolphins.
Olympic Cred: The middle blocker won a silver medal at the Olympics in 2012.
Multinational: The aspiring orthopedic surgeon holds triple citizenship in Canada, Nigeria and the United States.
Olympic Cred: The world-renown goaltender and standout at Princeton is the first black woman on the Olympic water polo team.
Sister Act: Sibling Chelsea also plays water polo at Princeton
Jenny Lyvette Arthur
Olympic Cred: The two-time national and Pan American champion has broken a number of records.
Theme Song: “Victory” By Yolanda Adams
Fast on Their Feet
Nearly three dozen African-American women will be competing in track and field events at the Olympics. Here are a few of many standouts:
Olympic Cred: In 4×400-meter, she won gold at 2015 Pan American Games and was twice an NCAA champion.
Big Dreams:@MsFastTwitch predicted that she’d be running at the Olympics five years ago.
“I dreamed big, and I was able to achieve my dream”https://t.co/lxA3tLo6sc
— Morolake Akinosun™ (@MsFastTwitch) August 1, 2016
Olympic Cred: Placed first in the trials for the Paralympic games and holds the national title in the 100m race.
Thrill of Running: “I absolutely fell in love with running from the day I got my running leg, back in November 2015,” Ayanbeku said of her custom Ossur Flex-Run prosthetic foot on her GoFundMe.com page. Her right leg was amputated below the knee after a car accident when she was 11 years old.
Olympic Cred: Won gold at the world championships
Daddy’s Girl: The high-jumper’s father is former NFL star Randall Cunningham
Olympic Cred: The six-time Olympic medalist ran in 2004, 2008 and 2012, capturing
four gold and two silver medals.
Family Affair: As preacher’s kid, faith and family are important to her. Her brother, Wes, is her agent.
Olympic Cred: Holds four world championship silver medals and four NCAA titles
Comeback Story: “Baby Beast” missed out on the Olympics in 2012, but she made it this year and plans to make her presence felt.
Olympic Cred: At this year’s Olympic trials, the New Jersey native set a junior world record in the 400-meter hurdles.
Teen Sensation: McLaughlin, who turns 17 on Aug. 7, is the youngest American to compete in track and field at the Olympics since 1972.