In recent years, we have seen Asian athletes making their mark on the world stage with bright names like Vijay Singh, Yani Tseng and Yao Ming, to name a few examples. And with their emergence comes the increasing popularity, if not dominance in their sports, of Asian American athletes on both the international and national stages of competition.
Overcoming Stereotypes in Sports
But their paths to athletic success have not been easy, to say the least. Most, if not all, of these athletes have met with many forms of adversity that any individual with less determination, less confidence, and less talent would have given up on.
Arguably, the most pervasive form of adversity among Asian athletes in the United States is overcoming the stereotypes of their race. These stereotypes, which can be expressed and implied by coaches, athletes and spectators, include Asians being:
Inferior in physical terms (i.e., height, weight and build) and, thus, in physical talent. This is a stereotype common in contact sports like football where physical proportions are important to success. Asian-Americans are also stereotyped as being smart but not being athletic so their place, so to speak, is in the classroom, the laboratory, or the boardroom but not in the field, arena, or green.
Lazier during training sessions because of their laidback culture or their tropical homelands, among other perceived causes. Such a stereotype has been proven time and time again by Asian American athletes whose coaches and teammates have praised for their dedication to their sports.
The bottom line: Asian-American professional and amateur athletes are perceived as not being real athletes or not being real Americans at all. This could not be further from the truth as these athletes are just as equally proud of their Asian heritage as of their American citizenship.
Of course, African-American and Latino athletes have also experienced discrimination in similar forms as Asian athletes. Each group has proven themselves equal, if not better, than their Caucasian (i.e., white) counterparts in sports.
Becoming Excellent in Sports
The following are just a few of the Asian-American professional athletes who have made or continues to make their mark in the world of sports.
Sammy Lee paved the way for Asian-Americans to be recognized as excellent in both academics and sports. He is not only a medical doctor but he is also the first Asian-American to win an Olympic gold medal in diving (1948 London Games and 1953 Helsinki Games
Tiger Woods is perhaps the most famous and most successful golfer, not to mention one of the highest paid golfers, of all time because of his achievements in the sport. He is a PGA Player of the Year awardee (11 times) and one of the most decorated golfers in history – second in major professional golf championships to Jack Nicklaus and second in PGA Tour events to Sam Snead. But because Tiger Woods is still at the prime of his game, he may yet become the best golfer of all time!
Let’s just say that Asian athletes in the United States have many role models to look up to and it’s just a matter of time before they, too, can dominate their sports!