Did you know that some of your favorite Olympians are either immigrants or draw their non-American heritage from their parents? Well here is a partial list.
- Gabrielle Thomas – Bronze, and Team Silver
Gabrielle Thomas, 24 was a member of the US Women’s 4x100m Relay Team who won the silver medal in the women’s 4x100m relay.
She also won an individual bronze medal after competing against the fastest woman alive in the women’s 200m final with a time of 21.87 seconds.
Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Thomas was born in Georgia in 1996 to Desmond Thomas, and Dr. Jennifer Randall. She is African-American on her mother’s side and Jamaican on her father’s side.
- Allyson Felix – Bronze
Allyson Felix, 35 won a bronze medal in the 400m at the Tokyo Olympics. With 10 Olympic medals, including five gold, she is the only woman track athlete with the most medals.
Her parents are Jamaicans, who have been living in the US as naturalized citizens for a long time.
- Ariel Torres – Bronze
Ariel Torres, 23 won a bronze medal in men’s Karate. His family left Cuba for the United States when he was just 4 years old. He dedicated his win to his immigrant parents who “came to (the US) for a better life, sacrificed everything.”
- Helen Maroulis – Bronze
Helen Maroulis, 29 brought a bronze medal home in the women’s freestyle 57kg. She was born in Maryland. Her father, Yiannis Maroulis is Greek.
- Oshae Jones – Bronze
Oshae Jones, 23 bagged a bronze medal in Women’s Welterweight Boxing. Her parents Otha Jones II (father) and DeDe Blackshear (mother) are African-American. “I’m beyond grateful for the chance to represent women, African-Americans, my small city of Toledo, but most importantly, my country,” she said after being selected for the Tokyo Olympics.
- Rai Benjamin – Silver
Rai Benjamin, 24 is an American hurdler who won a silver medal in the men’s 400m hurdles. His father, Winston Benjamin, is an Antiguan who used to be a member of the West Indies national cricket team.
- Tamyra Mensah – Silver
Tamyra Mensah, 28 grabbed a gold medal in the Women’s 68 kg Wrestling. She was born in Chicago, and her father was a Ghanaian who left Ghana at the age of 30.
- Simone Biles – Bronze
Simone Biles, 24 who has a total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals on her credit, won a bronze medal in the Beam (gymnastics) at the Tokyo Olympics.
Biles holds Belizean citizenship through her adoptive mother and refers to Belize as her second home. She took birth to her biological mother, Shanon Biles on March 14, 1997, in Ohio. In 2003, her maternal grandfather, Ron Biles adopted her.
- Athing Mu – Gold
Athing Mu, 19 has become the first US woman since 1968 to win an 800m race, by winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Early in 2021, she also set the world U20 record for 800m indoors in 1:58.40.
Mu is the daughter of South Sudanese immigrants who emigrated to the US when she was younger.
- Sunisa Lee – Gold and Bronze
Sunisa Lee, 18 won gold in women’s all-around gymnastics event, and a bronze medal in uneven bars competition. Lee is of Hmong descent and was born in 2003. Her parents are Hmong refugees who migrated to the US after the Vietnam war.
- Fred Kerley – Silver
Fred Kerley, 26 came home along with a silver medal in the Men’s 100m Race. He was adopted by Ricky, and Virginia who are actually his uncle and aunt. He has his DNA tested which reveals that he is of Ghana and Congo descent.
- Lee Kiefer – Gold
Lee Kiefer, 27 is the first US woman or man who won gold in women’s individual foil fencing. Her husband, Gerek Meinhardt also won a team bronze in foil. Keifer was born on 15th June 1994 in Ohio. She is a Filipino-American and draws her Filipino descent from her mother, Teresa.
- Gerek Meinhardt – Bronze
Gerek Meinhardt, 31 won a team bronze in the men’s foil team fencing. He is the husband of gold winner Lee Kiefer. Meinhardt was born in 1990 in California, and he is of Asian-American descent.
- Xander Schauffele – Gold
Xander Schauffele, 27 won gold in the men’s golf. He was born in California. His father is a German/French naturalized immigrant while his mother is a Taiwanese naturalized immigrant. Her mother grew up in Japan.
- Torri Huske – Team Silver
Torri Huske, 18 along with her mates Smith, Jacoby, and Weitzeil won a team silver medal in the women’s medley relay (swimming). Her full name is Victoria Huske, and she is of Chinese descent. Her mother was born in China and migrated to the US in 1991.
- Eddy Alvarez – Silver
Eddy Alvarez, 31 has become the third American to win a medal at both summer and winter games by bagging silver as part of the Team USA baseball in the Tokyo Olympics final.
He is a Cuban-American from Miami who took birth to Cuban immigrant parents. “Being a first-generation Cuban-American, my story represents the American Dream. My family has sacrificed so much for me to have the opportunity to wave this flag proudly,” he said after his selection.
This is just a partial list, please share any names we may have missed! Congratulations to all winners and participants of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Find out more from the 2016 Olympics
Immigrant Winners of 2016 Summer Olympics
In 2016, the US Olympic Team included nearly 50 foreign-born athletes, eight of whom won medals.
- Kerron Clement, originally of Trinidad and Tobago won Gold in men’s 400m hurdles.
- Paul Chelimo, originally of Kenya, won Silver in the men’s 5,000m race.
- Kyrie Irving, having Australian origin, won Gold with the US Men’s Basketball Team.
- Danell Leyva, a Cuban, won two individual Silver medals in Gymnastics.
- Dagmara Wozniak, a Poland-born, was part of the Bronze-winning Saber Fencing team.
- Steffen Peters, originally of Germany, won a team Bronze in Dressage.
- Phillip Dutton, a native Australian, won an individual Bronze in Equestrian.
- Foluke Akinradewo, born to Nigerian parents, won a team Bronze in Women’s Volleyball.
What can we learn from this?
These facts and figures show immigrants have been playing a significant role in making the US proud on the global stage. Given the recent demographic changes especially when the annual birth rate has increased by just 0.09% from 2020, the US cannot rely on indigenous talent alone. To contain or say compete with China – which relies more on itself for a steady flow of talent, the US – and other emerging powers, the US must ease the immigration restrictions to attract more hardworking, talented, and ambitious new citizens, who will help the US grow domestically and maintain its global prominence.