The Summer Olympics are more glamorous than their counterpart every four winters. And of all the competitions being held in Rio de Janeiro over the next two weeks, none are more familiar than basketball, gymnastics, swimming, and track and field.
They are the Mount Rushmore of Summer Olympic sports.
But athletes will compete in roughly three dozen other sports that don’t enjoy the same popularity or appeal. These men and women have been working just as hard in their fields as Carmelo Anthony, Simone Biles, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.
Toiling in more obscure sports, they won’t receive as much attention, adulation or airtime. However, the medals they seek are just as shiny and meaningful, valued prizes for the dogged pursuit of athletic excellence.
When it comes to the following sports, black athletes typically are few in number. But here are some participants you might see if you tune in to these events during the games:
Ibtihaj Muhammad and Daryl Homer help make this one of the most diverse teams representing the United States. Homer won the silver medal in saber at the 2015 Senior World Championships. Muhammad will make history as the first U.S. Olympic athlete to compete in a hijab.
Goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson is one reason the U.S. women’s team is a favorite to win gold. She is the first black woman to represent the United States in water polo in Olympic competition. The Miami native was named the 2015 Collegiate Water Polo Association Player of the Year at Princeton.
Asian countries dominate this sport that was developed in Britain, but Brazil is making a push through a burgeoning youth program. Nineteen-year-old Ygor Coelho de Oliveira, ranked 62nd in the world, and 20-year-old Lohaynny Vicente (72nd), will be the first Brazilian badminton players at the Olympics.
The French men’s team comes to Rio with what’s considered one of the sport’s best squads ever. With assistance from Luc Abalo and Cédric Sorhaindo, France is hoping to win a third consecutive gold medal after becoming the first team to successfully defend its title in 2012.
Her countrywoman, and defending gold medalist, Jessica Ennis-Hill has better odds of reaching the medal stand, but 23-year-old Katarina Johnson-Thompson is looking to become Britain’s new standard-bearer. Johnson-Thompson broke Ennis-Hill’s British record in the pentathlon and won gold at the European Indoor Championships last year.
A three-time national champion at San Jose State, Colton Brown is making his Olympic debut after medaling in six international competitions last year. Brown, 24, trained in Japan for four months after graduating from New Jersey’s Piscataway High School.
Superior pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, horseback riding and running are what it takes to win this event, which debuted at the Stockholm Games in 1912. Germany’s Patrick Dogue finished second in the World Cup Final this year.
In 2013, Abdelkebir Ouaddar became the first Moroccan to qualify for the World Championships. He was “raised as her own son” by Princess Lalla Amina of Morocco, and his horses are owned by King Mohammed VI.
Segun Toriola of Nigeria is the first African athlete to make seven appearances in the Olympic Games. Only three other table-tennis players have accomplished the feat. Teammate Quadri Aruna is playing in his second Olympics; he reached the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup.