Olympians Of Color Ready To Make Big Mark At Games

“Gabby” Douglas is poised for Olympic gold.

Tonight, athletes from 204 countries will fill Olympic Stadium the opening ceremonies of the 30th Summer Olympic Games in London. It is the prelude to a three-week span of competition athletes have been training rigorously for over the last four years, and sometimes even longer.

Team U.S.A. comes into these summer’s Games with its usual lofty goal of claiming the most gold medals. And while the biggest spotlight will be placed on the men’s basketball team featuring international stars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, among others, there are several young two black athletes and one of Puerto Rican dissent that are of star cloth and bear watching over these exciting two weeks.

Here are three ABS  consider worth your monitoring:

* Twenty-four year old freestyle wrestler Jordan Burroughs is poised to claim gold in his first Olympic games. While a newcomer to the Olympic Games, Burroughs is far from short on experience. The Camden, New Jersey native spent his colligate career wrestling for the University of Nebraska, claiming his first National Championship at 157 pounds during his junior year to cap an undefeated season. A tear to his left PCL and LCL during his senior campaign caused him to take a medical redshirt  and sit out a season.

Burroughs bounced back for his injury in dramatic fashion, returning to the mat bigger and stronger. He joined the 165-pound division and would go on to claim yet another undefeated season and national title.

Burroughs rode his success in the NCAA directly into the world freestyle wrestling scene, winning both the 2011 World Wrestling Championships and the 2011 Pan American games.

Burroughs hasn’t been shy about his plans to win gold either. He said in the Wall Street Journal,  when asked to assess his chances of winning gold in his 74kg weight class, Burroughs said: “Its gold or bust for me. I’ve beaten all the best guys in the world a number of times and I feel like I’m the best guy in the world, so I’m just focusing on my performance right now. I’ve dreamed of being a gold medalist for a long time. It’s a culmination of years and years of training put into this day and I’m ready to win.

*  In women’s gymnastics, 16-year-old Gabby Douglas is favored to win gold in the uneven bars. Douglas recent won gold in that event at the 2012 Pacific Rim Championships as well as the Visa Championships and locked up her spot on the Olympic team by coming in First Place at the Olympic Trials. While claiming a spot on the Olympic team was surely a joyous occasion, it was magnified by a surprise visit from someone she hadn’t seen in almost two years; her father.

Air Force staff sergeant Timothy Douglas, who had only seen his daughter perform on YouTube because he was stationed overseas, surprised his daughter at the Trials. She was stunned when she saw him during warmups.

“I’m like, ‘Who’s calling my name?’ And then I look up. It was my dad and his friend, and I haven’t seen him in a while, “ she told USA Today. “They were holding up the flag. And I almost felt like bawling. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, Dad!’”

Douglas started in gymnastics at the age of six and won the 2004 State Championship in Virginia when she was just eight years old. At 14, Douglas moved to Des Moines, Iowa to train with Liang Chow, gymnastics coach of 2008 balance beam Olympic gold-medalist Shawn Johnson.

“We knew (gymnastics) was in her heart because one day she came home from the gym and she had a 102-degree temperature,” Douglas’ father said. “She went to bed, slept it off and woke up and got back in the gym the next day. That’s when we knew she had a winner’s attitude, a winner’s spirit.”

* On the men’s gymnastics side, Bronx-born, 19-year-old John Orozco has overcome poverty and personal hardship to place himself in position to win gold in the men’s All-Around competition.

Orozco got his start in gymnastics through a program in the Bronx aimed to help disadvantaged youth. Born to Puerto Rican immigrants who both faced health challenges, Orozco’s family scrapped together whatever money they could to keep their son in the gym and out of the troubled streets of New York.

It was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle that, for years, Orozco and his parents would pack up the family minivan and travel to meets, sleeping on a mattress in parking lots when it was time for rest.

Between the kids in his gymnastics classes born of means and the inner-city youth that made fun of his proper English and gentlemanly behavior, Orozco found it hard to fit in. Eventually began channeling that negative energy and using it to propel his work ethic.

“I felt like I had a target on my head sometimes, but I’m glad my parents taught me to be better,” he said.

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