Former U.S. water polo Olympian Omar Amr recalled his experience with racism as he worked for his Olympic dream in a recent segment on CBS’ This Morning. Amr says he consistently overcame negative, racist comments at why he would not reach his goal, and made the Olympics in 2004.
Amr began his water polo journey at the University of California, Irvine. Although committed to swimming at UC-Irvine on a scholarship, Amr also wanted to try out water polo. He asked the coach for the opportunity to try it out and although the coach laughed, Amr still tried out. At his first practice, his nose was broken, and the coach began his racist comments from the start.
Instead of being stopped by racial slurs, Amr became more motivated. He was determined to make the Olympic team. In his time at UC-Irvine, he was an honorable-mention All-American in 1994, and a second-team All-American in 1995 and 1996.
Amr made the U.S. national team in 1996. Amr spoke of the racism and said “they made it so miserable that they hoped I would quit.”
After completing his undergraduate degree in biology, Amr attended Harvard Medical School. Although he missed out on the 2000 Olympic team, being one of the last cut, Amr continued to train.
While at Harvard Medical School, he attended school during the week in Boston and flew out to Orange County California to train with the 2004 Olympic team. He and goalie Genai Kerr were the first two African Americans to represent the U.S. in water polo. That 2004 team finished seventh at the Athen’s Games.
Since competing at the Olympic Games, as well as graduating Harvard Medical School, Amr has completed residency and been an emergency room physician. He was just featured on CBS This Morning, view that segment below.
At this year’s Tokyo Games, Ashleigh Johnson will be the first African American woman to represent the U.S. in water polo. She will be a goalie. Women’s water polo will begin competition on July 24.