Check out this gallery of the Women’s bobsled team for more deets about the impressive women!
1. Black Olympians
The 2014 Winter Olympics are underway in Sochi, Russia and for the first time in 90 years, Black athletes are at the forefront of the icy competition. Athletes like: Shani Davis and Lolo Jones are medal contenders in games like ice-skating and bobsledding that until now, have been mostly devoid of African-Americans. But before we long jump ahead, let’s take a look back at Black Olympians who’ve paved the way.
2. Tai Babilonia (Figure Skating)
Tai Babilonia, with partner Randy Gardner, became the first Winter Olympian of African heritage in 1976 when she set blade on the frigid ice inside the ice skating rink. She is the 1979 World champion and a five-time (1976–1980) U.S. national champion. Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner qualified for the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Babilonia opened the gates for future skaters like Debi Thomas.
3. William “Willie” Davenport (Bobsledding)
William “Willie” Davenport became the first African-American to compete in the Summer and Winter Olympic games as a runner for the American bobsled team. He and field athlete Jeff Gadley were accepted to the U.S. bobsledding team for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Because of the boycott of the 1980 games, he became the only U.S. track and field athlete to participate in the games.
4. Debi Thomas (Ice Skating)
Debi Thomas became the first Black Winter Olympian to win a medal, capturing the bronze in 1988 for U.S. skating. Thomas was known for her daring moves on the rink and was one of the only women to perfect a triple toe-triple toe combination which was rare for a female skaters in the 80s. Thomas was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000.
5. Surya Bonaly (Figure Skating)
When it comes to figure skating, there are few skaters who are as impressive as Surya Bonaly. She is the only female to attempt a quadruple toe loop jump and her ability to back flip and land on one blade. She placed 5th in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville and 4th at the 1994 games in Lillehammer and 10th at Nagano in 1998.
6. Vonetta Flowers (Bobsledding)
Vonetta Flowers turned to bobsledding after several failed attempts to make the Summer Olympics. With a nack for speed, she was chosen as the team’s breakwoman. She became the first black athlete to win a Winter Olympics gold medal in the in the two-woman event at the 2002 Winter Olympics. She later retired from competition after the 2006 Winter Olympics.
7. Jarome Iginla (Hockey)
Jarome Iginla led the Canadian hockey team to victory at the 2002 Winter Olympics for the first time in 50 years, where he became the first Black man to win a gold medal.
8. Shani Davis (Speedskating)
Competitors in the Speedskating category at the 2014 Winter Olympic should be very afraid! Shani Davis seems unstoppable. After becoming the first Black athlete (from any nation) to win a gold medal in an individual sport at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games (and capturing the silver medal in the 1500 meter event), he defended his title at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, making him to first man to do so!
9. The Women’s US Olympic Bobsled Team
Two Black women will sit in the front of the bobsled sleigh for the first time in the history of the Winter Olympics. Track stars Lolo Jones, Lauryn Williams, Aja Evans, Jazmine Fenlator and veteran bobsledder Elana Meyers make up the 2014 US Women’s Bobsled team.