U.S. women bring home top medals from the Olympics
Fred Jeter | 8/12/2021, 6 p.m.
Red, white and blue added up to a treasure chest of gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
Let’s meet the “Golden girls.”
Here are a few who shined most on the world’s brightest athletic stage:
Runs in the family: Sydney McLaughlin received her gift of speed honestly. Her father, Willie McLaughlin, reached the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 400 meters and her older brother, Taylor, was an All-American hurdler at the University of Michigan. Also her mother, Mary, who is Caucasian, ran sprints in high school.
Sydney first made the U.S. Olympic team in 2016 when she was in high school. While she finished 16th overall then, she cashed in on the biggest prize in the Tokyo Olympics, capturing the gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles in a world record time of 51.46 seconds. She added another gold medal on her 22nd birthday, Aug. 7, by racing the lead-off leg in the 4x400 relay.
McLaughlin was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2017 and has signed a $1.5 million endorsement with New Balance.
She has an “Instagram Official” relationship with Andre Levrone, a former University of Virginia wide receiver who played in the NFL with Baltimore and Jacksonville.
Magic on the mats: Tamyra Mensah-Stock became the first Black woman to win a wrestling gold medal by mining the 68 kg (150 pound) weight category title in Tokyo. She is just the second U.S. woman to strike Olympic gold in wrestling, following Helen Maroulis in 2016.
There were plenty of tears on the podium and in the post-win interview as the 28-year-old Mensah-Stock reminisced about her father, Prince Mensah, a native of Ghana, who died in a 2009 car accident. At the time, he was driving home from watching Tamyra and her twin sister, Tarkyia, in a wrestling match.
“He would have been the loudest one here,” Mensah-Stock told the media. “He would have been so proud.”
Long time coming: U.S. women had gone 53 years and 12 Olympics since striking gold in the 800 meters. Stretching out her long legs with grace and power, Athing Mu ended the drought.
Pronounced “Uh-thing Moe,” the 19-year-old from Trenton, N.J., prevailed with an American record of 1:55.21. She became first American to be first to the finish since Madeline Manning in 1968. Mu added another gold medal running the anchor leg of the 4x400 relay.
The second of seven children, Mu is of South Sudan ancestry. Mu won both the 400- and 800-meter NCAA titles for Texas A&M University this past spring and has since signed a professional contract with Nike.
She appears to have the immense talent to win multiple Olympic titles in the future.
What’s different here? In a sport that is overwhelmingly white, Princeton graduate Ashleigh Johnson is widely considered the best water polo goalkeeper in the world.
In the 2016 Olympics as the first Black woman to represent the United States in water polo, she helped the Americans win the gold. In 2016, she was also the only woman on the team who wasn’t from California. The 26-year-old, long-armed, 6-foot-1 athlete hails from Miami, where she is part of a family of water polo enthusiasts.
Johnson and the U.S. team struck gold again in Tokyo, defeating Spain 14-5 for the crown.
“Grayt-ness:” That’s Allisha Gray’s Twitter handle and it fits. Her latest achievement is helping the U.S. women’s team win the inaugural 3x3 basketball title, ranking with team leaders in all statistical categories.
The 26-year-old, 6-foot Gray, who plays for the WNBA Dallas Wings, is no stranger to cutting down the nets. In 2017, she led the Univer- sity of South Carolina to the NCAA crown under Coach Dawn Staley. Gray stood out on the court for her scor- ing, rebounding, ball handling and defense, and also for wearing protective goggles, the result of being poked in the eye.
For that, she gave herself a new nickname, “Goggle-lish.”
Saving the best for last: Allyson Felix, 35, settled for a bronze in the 400 meters with a time of 49.46, but deserves “Golden Girl Captain” status.
The Los Angeles native finishes her brilliant career with 11 Olympic medals — seven gold, three silver, one bronze. The final — a gold medal — came on her leg of the 4x400 relay team in Tokyo. She is now the most decorated American track and field athlete in Olympic history.
Felix has represented the United States in five Olympics — 2004 in Athens, 2008 in Beijing, 2012 in London, 2016 in Rio and, finally, Tokyo.
Since Rio, she and her husband, Kenneth Ferguson, added a super fan, 2-year-old daughter, Cammy. Could another Golden Girl be in the making?