I don’t know about you, but I love the Olympics! Watching them tonight, I was struck by how white they are – and I’m not just talking about the snow. Of course, there are several amazing Asian and Asian-American skaters, but the rest of the sports seem to be lacking in color. Only 5 Black people have won medals at the Winter Olympics.
Debi Thomas was the first Black woman to win the U.S. and World Figure Skating Championships. She won the bronze metal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary. After retiring from skating at age 21, Thomas went on to become an orthopedic surgeon.
Vonetta Flowers was the first Black person to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. In Salt Lake City in 2002, she and partner Jill Bakken won the gold medal in women’s bobsled. Flowers had twins in 2003, and was at the Olympics in Turin in 2006, where she and partner Jean Prahm finished in sixth place.
Randy Jones and Garrett Hines are both Black American bobsledders. Their 4-man team included (White) teammates Chip Menton and Brian Shimer. They team won the silver medal in the 2002 Olympic games in Salt Lake City, marking the first time that U.S. men had medaled in men’s bobsledding since 1956. Jones is considered the most decorated bobsledder in U.S. history. He’s currently on the United States Olympic Committee.
Shani Davis is an American speed skater. At the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, he became the first Black male of any country to win a gold medal in an individual Winter games sport. Just last week, he defended his title in the 1,000 meters, earning another gold medal. He holds the world records in both the 1,000 meters and 1,500 meters.
You can find a great article about Jones, Hines, and the other Winter medalists at answers.com. Apparently, Jones, Hines, and Flowers started a trend, and more and more Black competitors can be found in bobsledding. Apparently, Jones said to the Pasadena Star, “I think the doors can definitely open now. It’s something we can do, and do well.” He continued, “It’s not a black thing; it’s not a white thing.”