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?