'Representation is everything:' Black Olympians hope to inspire in Beijing_freckle mole removal pen

'Representation is everything:' Black Olympians hope to inspire in BeijingHockey player Jarome Iginla became the first Black man to win a Winter Olympic gold medal in Canada's victory over the U.S. at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics. Five days earlier, American bobsledder Vonetta Flowers captured the first Winter Olympic title by a Black athlete, period. Twenty years later, it doesn't feel as though much has changed.

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Baldé, Appiah, James among those changing the way people see the Games

Lori Ewing · The Canadian Press(Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Elladj Baldé calls it the video that forever changed his life.

The Canadian figure skater is turning circles across a frozen, deserted Lake Minnewanka outside Banff, Alta. His Chicago Bulls bomber jacket is flapping open, his hair's tucked up under a black tuque. His arms are outstretched, his face turned up to the sun. His blades carve perfect circles like a Spirograph on the untouched ice.

The video propelled Baldé to online stardom, providing him a vehicle to express his love for skating and connect with new audiences.

As a biracial figure skater, Baldé spent much of his career trying to fit a mould in one of the Winter Olympics' stuffier sports.

"The pressure to conform was intense, and it was conveyed subconsciously to me throughout my journey — being rewarded for using certain music, dressing a certain way and skating with a certain style," Baldé said. "For the most part, each of these elements were inauthentic to who I truly am.

"Mentally, this was difficult to process and further cemented when there wasn't anyone else around who looked like me."
  • 'I can play again': Retired figure skater Elladj Baldé finds an escape on the ice

Baldé said when he missed making the 2014 Sochi Olympic squad by one spot, and then missed the podium at the Canadian championships in 2015 — despite a standing ovation for his free program — his entire identity and self-worth was shattered.

Baldé is working for the CBC at the Beijing Olympics, which fall during Black History Month. And while there are no stats on the percentage athletes who identify as Black, Indigenous or a person of colour (BIPOC) — the Canadian team, for example, received few returns on an optional survey — it's painfully obvious, the prevailing face of the Games is white.

Keegan Messing caught up with <a href="https://twitter.com/elladjbalde?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@elladjbalde</a> after his absolutely beautiful short program 🇨🇦 <a href="https://t.co/dmetd3hSxB">pic.twitter.com/dmetd3hSxB</a>

&mdash;@CBCOlympics

Baldé hopes to help change that. His skating videos, which are a joyful mix of backflips, hip-hop moves and traditional skating set to music in stunning settings, have made him a social media sensation. The 30-year-old from Montreal has 1.2 million TikTok followers.

He hopes he's changing the way people see figure skating, and reaching more diverse communities.

"Ever since embracing my authenticity and performing what feels most natural to me, it's been the single most powerful tool to create change," Baldé said. "It has showed me the world is hungry to see skating in different ways, and that artistry sees no bounds."

WATCH | Black representation at the Beijing Games:

Being Black in Canada at the Olympic Games

10 days agoDuration 24:43Canadian athletes connect with Being Black in Canada's own Tamika Forrester to discuss what it means to represent more than just your country, on the world's largest stage.Chicago NHL scout Brigette Lacquette breaks hockey barrier for Indigenous women

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