America’s Black 2008 Olympic Hopefuls

By BASN Wire Services
Updated: May 2, 2008

BOSTON — Friday marked the official 100-day countdown to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, where hundreds of athletes will achieve their lifelong dream by representing Team USA on the world stage.

It is easy to recognize their athletic talent, but what happens when we follow them off the field — and into their personal lives? Many fans may be surprised to learn about the stories and personal interests of their favorite Olympians and Olympic hopefuls.

Allyson Felix (Los Angeles, Calif.) doesn’t just look good sprinting across the finish line — this fashionista looks good every time she steps out of the house. When she’s not sporting her track shoes, she is always looking for a chance to wear her red Christian Louboutins. But don’t let her obsession with shoes fool you, Felix is firmly grounded by her faith in God, and her strong family relationships.

Cullen Jones (New York, N.Y.) grew up in the Bronx with the hopes of being a professional runner. It wasn’t until 2006 that he gave up running to pursue swimming full-time. He now holds six medals and is the first African-American to break a long-course world-record in swimming. Jones is an aspiring filmmaker and will be featured in a documentary called, “Parting the Waters,” to be released this summer.

Reese Hoffa (Athens, Ga.), a 285-pound shot-putter is not your “typical” athlete. For starters, he has no gall bladder. But the thing that truly makes him unique is the challenges he has overcome. He was given up for adoption at age three, but later, as an adult, he embarked upon an emotional quest and was reconnected with his birth mother. He carries his fierce competitive spirit into playing video games — his favorite way to relax after a meet.

Sanya Richards (Austin, Texas) has found precious medals both on and off the field. She was engaged to New York Giants cornerback (and Super Bowl champion) Aaron Ross in December 2007. The proposal was an unexpected surprise in the middle of a New York Giants-Washington Redskins Sunday Night Football game.

An NBC camera, filling for its Olympics coverage, caught Ross asking Richards to marry him. She, of course, offered a resounding, “Yes.” The couple has yet to announce a wedding date but revealed that the ceremony would take place in her hometown of Austin, TX. Between training and wedding planning, Richards also finds the time to volunteer for the American Behcet’s Disease Association.

Dwight Phillips (Snellville, Ga.), a long jumper, recovered from two badly broken legs at the age of 14 to go on to win a gold medal in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. In his spare time, he experiments with photography and has stepped into a completely new role as manager of an emerging hip-hop band. With an intense training schedule, competitions, public appearances and family life, many athletes still manage to find the time to give back to their communities.

Lauryn Williams (Miami, Fla.), has found the time in her busy training schedule to volunteer with multiple organizations. She participates in community outreach as part of the USA Track & Field’s “Be A Champion” program. She also volunteers at Arcola Lakes Elementary School in Miami assisting a class of deaf students who are teaching her sign language.

Additionally, Williams desires to set up a scholarship fund to assist emerging female athletes in their quest for academic and athletic excellence. And, to top all of this community work, she is currently looking to establish her own charitable fund.

Bryan Clay (Glendora, Calif.), was once a rebellious teenager, but his success in sports and acceptance of the Christian faith has led him to an incomparable work ethic, commitment to excellence and unwavering integrity. He has established the Bryan Clay Foundation which provides student-athletes with academic and athletic scholarships, and is providing high school physical education departments with equipment and improved facilities.

NOTE:The Opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games in Beijing will be held on August 8. To get to know the athletes better, and to see who else is competing, visit