Costa Rica’s gymnast, Luciana Alvarado, supports 'Black Lives Matter' in her routine
Costa Rica’s only gymnast at Tokyo 2020 didn’t qualify for the gymnastics finals, but made a different impact.
Before the Tokyo Olympics even started, 18-year-old gymnast Luciana Alvarado had already made history for Costa Rica, becoming its first-ever gymnast to compete in an Olympic games.
Her story doesn’t end in a Cinderella run to the podium — it ended on Sunday during the final qualifying round for women’s gymnastics — but she did still have an impact and has the world talking.
The focus is on the end of her floor routine, which concluded with Alvarado on one knee, her head back and fist in the air.
The gesture was in honor of the Black Lives Matter Movement and its impact over the last year and a half following the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Their encounter, which saw Chauvin kneel on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, was captured on film and lit the world ablaze around the issues of police brutality and the treatment of Black and Brown individuals in criminal justice.
Many of those initial waves are still settling to this day, and the sports world responded by kneeling before most games and matches. Many Black and Brown athletes have also used their platforms as global icons to further spread the demand for racial justice.
Alvarado’s pose is something she said both her and her cousin incorporate into their routines.
“I feel like if you do something that brings everyone together, you know, and you see that here, like 'Yes, you're one of mine, you understand things,' the importance of everyone treated with respect and dignity and everyone having the same rights because we're all the same and we're all beautiful and amazing,” she told the GymCastic podcast in training.
Her gesture is also just the latest in Olympic history displays for racial justice.
The most prominent came in Mexico City during the 1968 Summer Olympics. On the podium at that year’s 200m men’s running final, gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos — both Black — raised a black-gloved fist as the Star-Spangled Banner played to celebrate their achievements.
It was in defiance of the human rights abuses faced by millions of Black Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, the treatment of Black athletes of the time like Muhammad Ali, and the lack of adequate housing and opportunities for Black Americans.
They also received their medals shoeless to represent the poverty faced by the Black community in the U.S.
Smith would later revise his labeling of the gesture as a “Black Power” salute in his autobiography, instead calling it one in the interest of human rights.
Both runners were largely ostracized from the athletic community following their actions.
Initially after Alvarado’s gesture, it was thought that the International Olympic Committee might punish her because it does have rules against protest actions by athletes.
However, given it was part of her artistic routine, she will likely face no disciplinary action.