Our View: Three cheers for three Olympians

Our View: Three cheers for three Olympians
Noah Lyles won the 200 meters at the New Balance Grand Prix, 2021.(Photo/Instagram)

What’s better than having an athlete from your city make the Olympic team? Having three former Titans representing Alexandria and the United States in Japan for this year’s summer Olympics.

The stories of the three graduates of T.C. Williams High School, now called Alexandria City High School, are told in today’s Times front-page story “Three Titans vie for Olympic gold.”

Tynita Butts-Townsend, Noah Lyles and Troy IsLey graduated from T.C. Williams in 2009, 2016 and 2017 respectively. While they share a tie to the Port City and are American Olympians headed to the one-year-delayed 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the three athletes took very different routes to the Olympic roster.

Of the three, IsLey’s ties to the city are the deepest. Although Wikipedia says IsLey was born in Washington, D.C., he grew up in Alexandria, attending the local Boys and Girls Club before gravitating to boxing, his Olympic sport, and he still resides and trains here.

A 165-pound middleweight, IsLey and two of his teammates are the first professional boxers to be part of the U.S. Olympic team. IsLey, 22, trains with Alexandria coaches Kay Koroma and Dennis Porter at the Alexandria Boxing Club and wears boxing trunks with ALX on the front.

Lyles, who turned professional and moved to Florida to train right after graduating from T.C. Williams, was a star almost from the moment he set foot on an Alexandria track in eighth grade. He’s ranked first in the world in the men’s 200 meters distance.

Lyles, who will turn 24 on Sunday, stands a realistic chance of winning two gold medals in Tokyo.

Butts-Townsend, a high jumper, has had the most circuitous, and controversial, path to the Olympic roster. A native of Hampton, Virginia who attended East Carolina University after graduating from T.C. Williams, Butts-Townsend did not perform well at the Olympic Trials but made the team because of her pre-pandemic performance and standing.

Old for an Olympian at 31, the seven-time all-American told the Times she’s “in the best shape of [her] life.” Butts-Townsend holds the East Carolina records for the high jump and long jump.

While most people at least casually tune in to the Olympics, having three athletes with strong ties to our city gives Alexandrians extra incentive to root for our hometown heroes. Though, many people don’t need the push to watch, as the Olympics have long had an allure that persists despite intermittent controversies.

That appeal stems partly from the hard training most athletes put in over many years and the incredible athleticism and fitness that these athletes display. Olympians truly are physical superheroes.

The allure also has something to do with the fact that Olympians have set and attained what to many seem like impossible goals. They’re living proof that seemingly far-fetched dreams can come true. And the honor attached to representing your country on a world stage is part of the Olympic appeal and ideal.

IsLey, Lyles and Butts-Townsend also seem to be genuinely good people who are easy to root for.

As the three Alexandrians compete on the global stage in Tokyo these next few weeks, the eyes of the world, not just Alexandria, will be on them. We wish them well – and hope they will come back to their hometown in the near future to show off some hard-won medals.