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Olympic Gold Medalist Picks Louisville for Youth Track Program

Wednesday February 8, 2006

Initiative will combat racial and ethnic health inequities  

Dr. Adewale Troutman, director of the Louisville Metro Health Department, announced today that a former Olympic gold medalist has chosen Louisville as only the second site in the country for a youth track and field initiative that encourages minority young people to engage in physical fitness activities.

Tommie Smith won the gold medal in the 200-meter sprint at the 1968 summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. He broke the world record during his stunning victory, but may be best remembered for his silent gesture on the medal stand that brought attention to the civil rights movement in the United States. Smith will be in Louisville on February 10 to meet with local stakeholders about the program’s future funding.
 
“Tommie Smith set one of his world records here in Louisville, so we’re excited to have him back in town to launch an innovative program that will change the lives of young people in this community,” said Troutman.

In 2004, Smith joined forces with the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area, Inc. to launch the Tommie Smith Youth Track and Field Program in Oakland, California. Smith and several former Olympians conduct clinics with African American young people and encourage their interest in physical fitness. The program has resulted in decreases in childhood obesity and hypertension. It has also increased self-esteem and academic performance amongst the participants. The program culminates each year with a track meet.

Smith’s program here in Louisville will be part of the Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Movement. It will also fall under the auspices of the newly created Center for Health Equity, a partnership between city government and the University of Louisville designed to eliminate racial and ethnic health inequities.
 
“Obesity, hypertension and diabetes are just three diseases that disproportionately affect communities of color,” said Troutman. “I believe this program is a great way to reach out to elementary and middle school youth, so they will establish healthy life-long habits.”