The US Women’s Bobsled Team
Initial criticisms deemed this year’s winter Olympics a $50 billion debacle, highlighting reports of poor preparation, terrorism threats and LGBT and animal rights violations. But, now that the events are in full swing throughout the seaside Russian resort town of Sochi, the inspirational stories behind these Olympians and their world-class athleticism have reclaimed the international spotlight. From figure skating to curling, a group of exceptional black women are poised to create outstanding legacies, make sports history and defy traditional stereotypes at the major international sporting event.
To begin with, the six-person U.S. women’s bobsled team will have five African-American women on board: Aja Evans, bronze medalist Elana Meyers, Jazmine Fenlator, gold and silver medalist Lauryn Williams and Lolo Jones. The group will compete in three sets of two-person bobsleds, with Meyers and Fenlator leading their teammates drivers, a highly coveted and demanding position rarely held by Black bobsledders.
Between the five of them, the group boasts competitive sprinters, a shot putter and a hurdler, not to mention three winter and summer Olympic medals. If the U.S. women’s bobsled team emerges triumphant this year, not only will this victory mark the second time a black woman (or women, in this case) has one a gold winter Olympics medal, but also the first time a woman (Williams) of any race has snagged both a summer and winter gold medal.
Figure skaters Vanessa James (pictured left) and Maé Bérénice Méité will be representing France as they twirl it out for medals. James’ name likely rings a bell because in 2010, she and former partner Yannick Bonheur became the first black couple to compete in Olympic pairs skating. This year, the 26 year-old Bermudian-French has returned to the Olympic rink with a new partner, Morgan Ciprés. Together, James and Ciprés have won four international medals and become two-time French national champions.
Having started figure skating in 1999 at the age of five, Olympic newcomer Méité won the 2014 French national championship. According to USA TODAY, Méité delivered with “huge jumps and technical spins” last Saturday during the team figure skating competition, putting her in sixth place, as of publication. The 19 year-old Parisian is aiming to finish in the top 10 at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Rounding out this year’s international display of Black women diversity is Russian curler Nkeiruka Ezekh. Born in Moscow to a Russian mother and a Nigerian father, Ezekh took up curling after one of her mother’s friends told her about the strategic sport—considered “chess on ice”—and has been a member of the national team since 2000. This veteran curler has also appeared at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The 2014 Sochi Olympics runs now through Feb. 23. Until then, you can cheer on your favorite athletes either by streaming the events online or via your mobile device.
Full event schedules, results and more information on each athlete can be found below at the official Sochi 2014 Olympics website:
Which Olympians will you be rooting for during the Sochi 2014 winter games?
Also On HelloBeautiful:
Celebs Tweet Their Thoughts About #JusticeForSandraBland
1. Jesse Williams
#SandraBland's treatment while attempting to travel freely on HER public roadways has been acknowledged as unlawful. She is already dead.
2. Taraji P. Henson
"SAY HER NAME #SandraBland"
3. Ava DuVernay
"'Why are you arresting me?' Because you know your rights. Because I can. Because no one'll believe you. #SandraBland"
4. Kim Kardashian
#WhatHappenedToSandraBland We need answers!!!! This is NOT ok! This is all shady! They need to own up to this & tell the truth!
5. Jussie Smollet
"A loss 4 words. #SandraBlandMatters #BlackLivesMatter 👈🏿tell me this should change once the nation shows that we do. "
6. Snoop Dogg
🙏🌹. Sandra. Rip. 🌹🌹
7. K. Michelle
R.I.P to this queen. This could've been any of us. My prayers go out to her family. #sandrabland https://instagram.com/p/5fvlO_AhCf/
8. Gabrielle Union
SAY HER NAME!!! #SandraBland #SandraBland #SandraBland #SayHerName
"We must get to the cause of #sandrabland death because this CANNOT happen again #deathorfreedom"
10. David Banner
"When will we fight back. A man's duty on earth is to protect women and children. Where are the gangsters? Preachers? We need you. Please."
11. Nicki Minaj
"Rest In Peace #SandraBland"
12. Talib Kweli
"We the people ask @LorettaLynch to investigate #SandraBland #KimberleeRandleKing RETWEET "
Signs. Signs. Signs all around us. The Message is Here. #SandraBland
14. Missy Elliot
"When I look at the #SandraBland traffic video it brings so many emotions😳😢😡😡😤!"
15. Jessie J
"God bless your soul Sandra | #sandrabland | Change needs to come |Justice needs to be served | Heart… https://instagram.com/p/5fV79mQ0aw/ "
16. Jackee Harry
"It's time y'all, it's time.." #SandraBland #BlackLivesMatter
"In memory of #SandraBland these things don't make no kinda sense "
18. Holly Robinson Peete
I really don't look forward to having ANOTHER difficult conversation w my kids tonight...but here we go again😧💔 #SandraBland #SayHerName 😢
19. Jeffrey White
Sadly, doesn't matter by whose hand she died. Unjustified arrested set the outcome in motion. The state murdered her. #JusticeForSandraBland
Sandra could have been your mother, sister, aunt, friend or if she wasn't killed the community outreach advisor A&M. #SandraBland
21. Joan Smalls
"My heart is broken. Sending my deepest condolence to her family and friends. May you find Strength, Peace and Justice. When will this stop? #EqualityForAll #RIP #Why #SayHerName
22. Gladys Knight
Sandra Bland.... #SayHerName #SandraBland
23. Cara Delevigne
Things need to change NOW #SANDRABLAND #Justice #Equality
24. Meek Mill
"Rip to that young lady that lost her life about a traffic stop! 🙏 ima make sure I pray for her and her family! 🙏😄😄😄"