While the first ever four-man bobsled race took place in 1924, it wasn’t until 2002 that the first ever women’s bobsled event–the two-woman bobsled–was held. And it was quite the event too! So in case you missed that history-making moment, allow me to fill you in on the RAD life of Vonetta Flowers.
1. Southern And Proud
Vonetta Flowers is an Alabama girl to the core–born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She even went to college at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. While she was getting her education in, she was a star sprinter and long jumper on the university’s track and field team. She consistently made her home state proud with her talent (see below) and infamous world records. And they showed her so by electing her into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in December 2010.
2. Anything Boys Can Do Girls Can Do Better
Strong girls stand up! Well, that’s exactly what Flowers did back in 1982 when her soon-to-be longterm coach, Dewitt Thomas hit the scene. He showed up to Jonesboro Elementary School in order to seek out the fastest track star tikes in the town. Little boys and girls showed up to show off and earn a spot on the track team. Thomas recorded their names by their first initial and last name and the fastest time was V. Jeffery. V as in Vonetta (not Victor). Pow!
3. She’s Always First
After she showed Coach Dewitt Thomas that first is the only place she knew to be, the firsts continued to flood her life. She was the first in her family to attend college. The first athlete at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to be a Seven-Time All-American…and wait for it: She was the first 1st person of African descent (male or female) –from any country–to win a Gold medal in the Winter Olympics! Way to make that 2002 first-ever two-woman bobsled event memorable right?! She was also the first person from Alabama to win a medal (period) in the Winter Olympics. Get it girl!
4. Determination Is Her Middle Name
Now don’t let all those “firsts” fool you. Flowers earned every last title because of her talent of course, but also because of her determination. She always dreamt of being an Olympian ever since her sweaty childhood days, which is why she ran track, played volleyball and basketball in high school. Talk about increasing your chances, right?! She went out for the Summer Olympics several times, however after several failed attempts, Flowers found bobsledding (or more like bobsledding found her).
5. Cool Runnings Just Got Cooler
From track start to bobsledder: After several injuries, surgeries and attempts to join the Olympic Women’s Track and Field team as a long jumper, Flowers retired in 2000. She was ready to start a family, but thanks to her husband Johnny, her plans of retirement turned into a full blown new career. Literally two days after the 2000 Olympic trials, he spotted a flyer urging Track and Field athletes to tryout for the U.S. bobsled team. So, tryout they did (even though Vonetta was still dealing with the reality that she would not live out her lifelong dream of competing in the Olympics). However, shortly after the competition started, Johnny pulled his hamstring. Vonetta agreed to live out his dream by completing the six-item test. And boom, there she was 18 months later, making history with a gold medal around her neck at the the Winter Olympic games!
6. She Runs On Ice
What a story, what an inspiration, what a life! Several folks have recognized this, which is why Flowers has adorned several prestigious lists such as Essence Magazine’s 50 of the Most Inspiring African-Americans, Ebony Magazine’s 57 of the Most Intriguing Blacks and People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People. And if that is not enough to make you want to get your life then get her book, “Running on Ice: The Overcoming Faith of Vonetta Flowers.” Inspired much?
Robbie Ann Darby (RAD Experience) is a professional FitGirl, Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer in NYC. Follow her sweaty life on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more fun health and fitness tips!
Check Out The U.S. Bobsled Team!