USA Wrestling First African-Americ...

First African-American female Olympic medalist Randi Miller keeps moving forward

By Kala Ibarra, USA Wrestling | March 08, 2017, 5:28 p.m. (ET)

Randi Miller with her bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games. 

In honor of last month’s Black History Month and International Women’s Day today, we recognize a strong African-American woman in wrestling today.

It was just nine years ago that Randi Miller became the first African-America female to win an Olympic medal.

Her bronze medal at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing was not only a peak of Miller’s career, but also made history in America. Miller didn’t realize at first just how significant her achievement was until her mother pointed it out. It was then that her accomplishment really started to set in.

“My mother gave it weight for me because, of course, 40 years ago, living in America was completely different for a Black person than it is today. For her to point it out and it to be something that was important to her made me feel like it was important, that I was representing more than myself,” she said.

Her mother constantly backed her in whatever she did. No matter the level of agreement that Miller’s mother felt toward Randi’s decisions, she always was there supporting her daughter.

“When I was able to go out there and be the first Black female to do it, it was almost like justification for the decisions that I made and justification for her for supporting me in those decisions,” she said.

Miller’s dream to be attend the Olympics wasn’t something that was always obtainable. It wasn’t until 2004 that the Olympic Committee included women’s wrestling into the Olympic Games. It was that year when many women’s dreams, including Miller’s, become accessible.

“I remember the day that the USOC announced it was going to be a sport. I saw the article on TheMat.com, which I was on religiously when I was in college. I remember they announced it and I was really really happy. I printed off the article and put it on my door. I told myself that I wouldn’t be ready by 2004 but I was going to be ready for the 2008 Olympics,” she said.

The excitement that ran through Miller as she discovered the news about women’s wrestling displays was just a small example of how women wrestlers all over the world were feeling that day.

It was only the first step for Miller.

Just as Miller is able to be a role model for many young women and wrestlers, as she continued to pursue her dream of the being an Olympian, she had help from her own role models along the way.

“I definitely give a lot of gratitude to Iris Smith and Toccara Montgomery, both of those women set the tone for me. There was a point in my career where I was just wrestling, I was competing, I was going to school. I didn’t really know how to get from point A to point B. I knew I wanted to be an Olympian and I knew that I wanted to be ready by 2008 but I didn’t really know what that meant,” she said

She was able to go to Worlds in 2005 as Smith’s training partner. It was there that Miller witnessed Smith go from No. 3 on the U.S. National team to No. 1 in the World. Smith became the first African-American woman World wrestling champion for the United States, a major milestone. The experience that Miller had at Worlds is what really gave her better insight on how she was going to succeed moving forward. It was a turning point for Miller.

“Iris was third on the ladder at her weight class but ended up going to worlds because No. 1 and No. 2 got hurt. She was someone that they didn’t think she would win because of that, I believe. But she went out there and dominated her competition and I realized it’s OK if people think I’m not gonna win but that doesn’t mean I won’t,” she said.

After the 2008 Olympics Miller stepped back from the wrestling scene and got involved in MMA. For her it was all for fun. Just a few short years later, she was able to get back on the mat as a wrestler. After a six-year break from wrestling, Miller sparked a craving to get back in the wrestling room after watching the 2012 Olympic Games.

“I could sit on my couch and complain or I could get off my couch and be a part of the program and maybe be the change I wanted to see,” she said

Miller came back to make three National Teams at 69 kg/152 lbs, including a berth on the 2014 World Team.

In September, Miller became the assistant wrestling coach for one of the colleges she attended, MacMurray College, in Jacksonville, Ill. MacMurray announce in January of last year that they would be adding both a women’s and a men’s program. She will be working closely with head coach Pete Di Pol in building up the program.

“I love being a part of something new. You have so much freedom on where you can take a program or career,” she said.

As far as wrestling goes, Miller will continue to coach at MacMurray and what lies ahead in her wrestling career is unpredictable.

“I don’t know [if I’ll be back]. I mean if you would have asked me in 2010, I would’ve said no, and come 2014 I was on the World Team again. You never know,” she said.

Randi Miller’s impact on wrestling and in life is still being developed.