To the Editor,
As I watched the American athletes enter the Pyeongchang stadium for the Parade of Nations, I picked out faces under wool hats with dark brown, almond-shaped eyes set in faces framed with straight jet-black hair. The names that go with these faces — Chen, Zhou, Nagasu, the Shibutanis, Hong, Kim, another Chen, and Tran — may be unfamiliar to many American tongues, but they flow easily off mine, as well as those of millions of other Asian Americans watching these young Olympians.
At 16, I am a part of the young AAPI-heritage peer group, and I easily identify and sympathize with these athletes. The Pyeongchang Winter Games are touching me on a level higher and more profound than any other Olympics, and that is because of all those faces I see that are just like mine.
For years, my heroes came from books, mainly works of fiction, and they sorely lacked in Asian American protagonists. But now, at last, actual living stars are rising from a new generation for a new generation.
They have inevitably gone through the challenges we Asians face in America, but they have toiled away, crushing those obstacles, succeeding in their goals, and rising to the top of their sport to represent their country in the most prestigious sporting event of the present world. Every Olympic athlete trains for years to savor that one glorious moment on the podium, and there is nothing more inspiring than living in the time of a budding virtuoso with the same heritage as oneself and watching them progress concurrently in life and career.
I will join millions of other young fans who will be following these aspiring athletes’ continued journeys from one book to the next, from one chapter to another. We will watch with bated breath and hammering heart, sharing their pain and elation, and try not to strangle every living word in a white-knuckle grip, as we all find our paths and futures, from the snowy slopes of Korea to the sprawling American lands here at home.
I love cheering for America’s Olympic representatives, but especially for the Asian American athletes.
Individual culture and heritage is what breathes life into the Olympics, bringing billions of people together in a show of support for the athletes they identify with through nationality or cultural heritage. Asian Americans are playing key roles in bringing home medals for Team USA this year, whether they be in figure skating, snowboarding, or speed skating. In the end, whether or not they win medals, what matters is that they made it to Pyeongchang. It takes a lot of work to get to that point, but if they can achieve their goals, I feel that I can, too. And that — finding inspiration — is the true heart and soul of the Olympic Games.
— Emily Chua