Regardless of what marketing words are used, actions speak louder than words when it comes to inclusivity in the plethora of industries out there. From the racial upheaval of 2020 to now, brands have “done their best” in taking inventory of their diversity efforts (read: lack thereof) and racist tactics embedded in their culture.
As a woman of color, I assume the process will take time to completely reroute entire systems, cultures, and communities that have never looked after us or thought about us in the first place. And this goes far beyond corporate America, seeping into the fitness world as well. As an avid runner, yogi, and sweat enthusiast, I constantly see workout spaces that largely include white and thin people who are already in shape. I rarely see other races be the majority of clientele, and even less rarely see bodies that aren’t able. With the help of Zion Clark, that will hopefully change.
I read a recent interview of the 24-year-old fitness icon Zion Clark, and became so mesmerized with what he was doing, it totally inspired me. Impressive is an understatement for the man who holds a Guinness World Record for the fastest 20-meter race on two hands in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games — completely altering the game for adaptive athletes and people with disabilities.
Born with caudal regression syndrome in 1997 in Columbus, Ohio, the professional athlete had no legs. But that never stopped him from starting wrestling at age 6, and continuing on in high school, where he got a full scholarship to Kent State University in Ohio. This later led to a Guinness employee seeing him wrestle.
In February 2021, in a pandemic no less, Clark ran 20 meters in 4.78 seconds. “I’m the fastest,” Clark said in an interview reminiscing of how he felt post-winning. “It kind of speaks for itself, and it’s a good feeling.”
Today, Clark is training for the 2024 US Olympic Games for wrestling and the Paralympic Games for track and field in wheelchair racing. “Every year I get faster. Every year I get more experience.. I want to see how far I can take it,” the pro shared in the interview. “I have to train certain muscle groups to do certain actions.”
What Clark is doing is nothing short of inspiring. He is creating an atmosphere where all bodies are able to compete in. But not only compete, but win. Who knows how many people are out there that don’t feel safe or accepted in the fitness world. Representation matters and this is such a beautiful example of why.
In another example of how representation was done right, Hollywood nailed it these 4 times.
Photo via San Diego Union Tribune