Why Team USA’s Diversity Matters

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Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

While watching Team USA during the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics, I was on the edge of my seat. There were a whopping 242 athletes proudly walking in, the most of any nation ever. On top of that, the group was very diverse, boasting 108 women, the largest amount internationally. Eleven African-Americans and twelve Asian-Americans walked alongside two gay athletes as they were all warmly welcomed to the games. I thought about all of the children, teenagers, and adults who could finally see themselves in the powerful athletes representing their country. Finding role models to look up to and relate to isn’t always easy for minority groups in America but with Team USA there was undeniably a broad representation.

This team produced a variety of idols for everyone to look up to. Some of these are the children of immigrants, like Mirai Nagasu (figure skating), Chloe Kim (snowboarding), and Maame Biney (short-track speed skating). Chloe Kim even won the gold medal in Women’s Halfpipe. These Olympians or their parents came to America and worked hard to make a living and integrate themselves into a new culture. Seeing them perform in front of the world inspires other children that grow up feeling insecure because they don’t look the same or act the same as others to be like an Olympian: hardworking, bold, and powerful. Seeing athletes like 17-year-old Vincent Zhou (figure skating) and 39 year-old Brian Gionta (hockey) also teaches people that success can be acquired at any age.

The LGBTQ+ community can see themselves in Gus Kenworthy (freestyle skiing) and Adam Rippon (figure skating), the gay athletes on the team. They are both open about and proud of their sexualities. As proved when Kenworthy kissed his boyfriend on television, they aren’t ashamed of who they are. So why should teenagers growing up unsure about their sexuality feel ashamed when these respected and potent athletes do not?

Seven sets of siblings are on the team as well, including Maia and Alex Shibutani (figure skating), and Bryan and Taylor Fletcher (Nordic combined). Affectionately known as the “Shib Sibs”, the Shibutani siblings have captured the nation’s heart. They aren’t the talk of the town because they grew up with a different culture and have a different skin color but rather because of their passion for ice dancing, their obvious trust in each other, and their stellar performance. Let’s not forget about Nathan Chen, American figure skater who won bronze in the team ice skating event and ended in fifth place. He will go down in history for completing six quads in his program. The stereotype that Asians are not athletic can be negated with one look at the successful athletes on team USA. Finally, standing five feet tall, Karen Chen (figure skating) proves that greatness comes in all sizes.

Team USA has provided American viewers with a set of diverse athletes to root for. It’s a step in the right direction. The Olympic games were always designed to peacefully bring together nations. But in the past years, these games have proven that they stand for diversity as well as peace. Whether you have brown skin or yellow skin, are gay or straight, male or female, blue eyed or brown eyed, when you pump your fist in the air after an American victory, thousands of other Americans are right alongside with you. Team USA is a great representation of America: Many different races and sexualities and genders working together for the country they call home.

 

-Elise Hsu and Joanne Wang