July 20th, 2021 Last Updated on: July 23rd, 2021
Fifty indigenous athletes are headed to Japan to compete in the Tokyo Olympics—the most ever selected in Olympic history.
Only 3 indigenous athletes competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Sixteen of these athletes are members of the Australian Olympic Team looking to fulfill their lifelong dreams of competing on an international stage in one of 11 sports. New Zealand is sending another 33 athletes to the international event, and Canada is sending just a single athlete.
Let's get to know a few of them.
Jillian Weir (Mohawk) will represent Canada at the Tokyo Olympics in the women's hammer throw event. “It means the world to represent Mohawk Nation,” she said.
Ash Barty (Ngarigo): The 25-year-old is a contender for the gold in both Women’s Tennis Singles and Doubles in Tokyo.
Thomas Grice (First Nations): will compete in the Trap Shooting event which again is another first. Grice has been an avid shooter since he was 12.
Angie Blackburn (Monero Ngarigo and Yuin): is part of the relay team and has dreamt of representing Australia and indigenous people for over two decades.
Maurice Longbottom (Dharawal) and Dylan Pietsch (Wiradjuri): will mark their debut as part of the Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens team. Both men have had their eyes set on the Olympics since 2017.
Brandon Wakeling (Wonnarua) and Anthony Martin (Wonnarua): will compete in the weightlifting event. Martin had competed at the 2000 Sydney Games. Wakeling is grateful for this journey as an indigenous man and the support he’s received along the way.
Alex Winwood (Noongar): 24-year-old competing in the flyweight event who started fighting as a teenager, narrowly missed the Olympic selection in 2016. The boxer will represent the Australian Flyweight Boxing team.
Taliqua Clancy (Wulli Wulli): The 29-year old, who placed fifth with Australia's Beach Volleyball team in 2016, returns five years later to see if she can nab a gold medal.
Leilani Mitchell (Torres Strait Islander): made her Olympic debut in 2014 and competed in 2016. She’s representing the basketball team as its only First Nation athlete.
Brooke Peris (Darwin born) and Mariah Williams (Wiradjuri): both represent Australia. Perris will continue her family's legacy as she sets her sights on gold.
Kyah Simon (Anaiwan) and Lydia Williams (Noongar): Both play for the Australian Women's Soccer Team.
Tarni Stepto and Stacey Porter (Kamilaroi): women in the softball team, who like their teammates, will fulfill their lifelong dream.
Photos courtesy AAP/Instagram
Indigenous athletes have long held Olympic dreams, but public support is minimal and sponsorships are virtually non-existent. Perhaps Tokyo can prove to be different so indigenous athletes can use this platform as an opportunity to shine and inspire other First Nation athletes.
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