Anthony Robles never let his so-called “handicap” stop him reaching for his goals. Born without a right leg, Robles tore off his prosthetic limb early on at three years old. That missing leg did not stop Robles from winning the 2010-2011 NCAA individual wrestling championship in the 125-pound weight class.
At just 22 years old, Cam Newton is making history in football. Newton is the third player ever to win the Heisman Trophy and be the first overall pick in the NFL draft within the same year. Now, he’s the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Jonathon Prince did not spend most of his life as an athlete. He wasn’t even into running – it was something an old girlfriend convinced him to take up as a joint activity. But running turned into a focus in his life as he now runs to raise money for causes.
Ibtihaj Muhammad is an African-American Muslim and a professional fencer, a rare combination to set foot in a fencing match. She’s caught people’s attention based on that alone, but no one can deny her sheer talent. She earned a spot on the U.S. World Championship Fencing team in 2010 and was an All-American at Duke University in her weapon of choice: the women’s sabre.
Jon ‘Bones’ Jones is the youngest Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) titleholder in history. The 24-year-old New Yorker grew up wrestling and was the 2005 New York State wrestling champion during his senior year in high school.
In just four years, Bronx native Justus Williams went from chess novice to being awarded the level of “Chess Master” by the United States Chess Federation. At age 12 he became the youngest African-American chess master in history. He describes himself as “the “LeBron James of chess.”
Based on Laurel Richie’s position as the president of the WNBA, you would think her professional experience is mostly in sports. But the league’s decision to hire Richie, who has no sports background — but decades of business and marketing experience — clues fans into the organization’s mission to become more of a major player in sports.
Nicole Lyons, 29, was exposed to street racing at an early age. Her father, Jack Davis was a well-known street racer, and she shared his passion for all things car-related. So it’s no surprise Lyons went into the dangerous but thrilling sport herself, one of few African-American women to do so.
At first, Nigel Sylvester was just a boy on his bike in Queens, NY. He’s still on his bike years later, but this time it’s a bike he designed and he’s getting paid to ride. Now sponsors like Nike, Gatorade and G-Shock are helping Sylvester on his journey to the top of the BMX game.
In 2012, despite the myriad of records and firsts for African-Americans in sports, one franchise has yet to see its first African-American female member: NASCAR drivers. Twenty-four-year-old Tia Norfleet, as the daughter of professional racecar driver Bobby Norfleet, is determined to take that historic drive one day soon.
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This year’s Grio 100 class features exciting athletes dominating non-traditional sports like fencing, BMX bike riding and chess. It also includes a one-legged wrestling champ, the NFL rookie of the year and two female race car drivers. Check out our slideshow of this eclectic bunch of history-making icons in the world of sports.