I also have the opportunity to become the first African American to trace their family ancestry back to their homeland in Africa, return, gain citizenship, and represent their ancestral homeland in the Olympics!
On November 6, 2020, the Guinea Bissau Olympic committed officially stated that it supports my initiative "to represent Guinea-Bissau at the next Tokyo Olympic Games."
In 2021, I will be 50 years old.
Born Anthony Nathaniel Blake in 1971, I've been dreaming of competing in the Olympics since I was 8 years old.
In 1981, at ten year's of age, I became an Illinois State champion.
In June 1985, after winning the 13-14 boys 100 meter freestyle and the 100 meter breaststroke at the Ohio Valley Championship in Louisville, The Courier-Journal said, "Mention the Olympics to Blake and, just like any 14-year old swimmer who has experienced success, his eyes light up. 'Making the Olympics is hard' he said, glancing admirably toward Olympic champion Mary T. Meagher, who was busy signing autographs. 'She should know.'"
In 1989, Joliet Jets Coach Mike Broucek identified 18-year-old Blake as one of "four or five" senior swimmers on the team who could possibly qualify for the United States 1992 Olympic team.
In 1991 at Yale University, I became the first African American on the All-Ivy League swim team.
At the 1991 US Open, however, I failed to even qualify for Olympic Trials. My Olympic Dream was over. I ended up in the hospital. A 2016 Sports Illustrated article and a 2017 Sports Emmy winning Fox Sports documentary told the story. I retired from swimming and had no desire to return to the pool.
But return I did. In 2011 I won two events at the United States Masters Swimming Spring National Championships. In 2016, I broke the men's 45-49 national record in the men's short course 50 meter freestyle. The record was held by Olympic Gold Medalist Matt Biondi. A year later I won four silver medals at the FINA Masters Swimming World Championships in Budapest.
Not long after that I started thinking, "I want to break the world record in the 50 meter freestyle. I want to say that I am the fastest in the 50 at 50 ever in the history of humanity!" Can I do it? I think so. I am currently 4th on the FINA Masters Swimming Top 10 Times for the Men's 45-49 SCM 50 Free with a time of 23.58. I missed the world record by 0.29 seconds.
The world record for the SCM 50 to 54 age is group is held by Rowdy Gaines at 23.38 and the LCM record is held by Brent Barnes at 24.08. To break the world record, I will have to swim faster than I have ever swam before!
To kick off my Fastest 50 campaign , I raised $3,000 on GoFundMe and traveled to the Heliopolis Sporting Club in Cairo, Egypt for the 1st International Swimming Masters Championships. I won six gold medals representing the Balanta people of Guinea Bissau. Instantly a became a sports hero in my new country!
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR GUINEA BISSAU
The World Bank starts its country profile for Guinea Bissau by stating, "Guinea-Bissau, one of the world’s poorest and most fragile countries, has a population of about 1.8 million", of which 442,000 are the Balanta people.
With a Gross National Income of US$570, Guinea-Bissau is the 12th poorest country in the world. In 2010, over two-thirds of the population survived on less than US$1.9 per day. Guinea Bissau ranks 177th of 187 countries on the United Nations (UN) Human Development Index.
Just five Bissauan athletes, three men and two women, were selected to the Guinea Bissau 2016 Summer Olympic team, competing only in athletics, judo, and freestyle wrestling. My participation in the Olympics will provide some well needed international publicity to bolster their national pride. More importantly, I will be working to develop sports infrastructure for Guinea Bissau youth. My dreams and their dreams are the same.
Though I have no pretensions of winning a medal, my participation exemplifies the spirit of the Olympic Charter:
"Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles."
I hope to inspire people of all ages, especially older adults, that it is never to late to pursue your dreams or to perform better as you age. Ultimately, I hope to use my Olympic moment to bring real change to a people and a small country that is seeking their place in the world.
PLEASE CONTRIBUTE TO THIS OLYMPIC DREAM.
I will need $20,000 to cover training and travel expenses between now and the Tokyo games.
Read my story in Sports Illustrated
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