We’ve been watching them for a week, jumping and sprinting and hurling themselves through space in ways that frankly terrify us — many of them in the tiniest scraps of Spandex.
Olympians. Who are these people?
The thing is, it’s hard to know sometimes. By the time athletes make it to the Olympics, they’re often celebrities…or at least, public figures. They’re different from the rest of us slumped slack-jawed on our couches. They’re Olympians.
Earlier this year, when I worked at Radio Diaries, I got the chance to eavesdrop on the life of one of those Olympians back before anyone knew her name.
Four months ago, Claressa Shields was just a 16-year-old girl in Flint, Mich. The product of a broken home, living in one of the poorest cities in America, she was looking for a way out through boxing. Radio Diaries, together with photojournalist Sue Jaye Johnson, followed Claressa as she went to class, spent time with her family, trained with her coach, competed for a spot on the Olympic team — and hung out alone in her room, talking into a microphone.
Today, Claressa’s in London, hoping to win gold in the Women’s Boxing Middleweight Division (2012 is, by the way, the first year ever that women’s boxing is an Olympic sport). You can find Radio Diaries’ story on Claressa here, and see Sue’s comprehensive project on women’s boxing here.