Bobsledding to first place victory

Feb. 19, 2002: Vonetta Flowers became the first African-American woman to win a Gold Medal 

Black history has its old historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. 

While it is good to reflect on the amazing accomplishments and strives for equality that they have pushed for in the African-American community, we also need to recognize the growing number of modern-day African-American leaders of the 21st century. 

For instance, Vonetta Flowers has become an almost-forgotten athletic figure in the sports world. Born Oct. 29, 1973 in Birmingham, Alabama, Flowers had a dream of being one of the greatest athletes that the world had ever seen. 

She originally trained and competed as a sprinter and long jumper at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

Aspiring to make and compete in the 2000 United States Summer Olympics, she tried multiple times, but sadly was never able to make the official team.

Reeling back from missing the Summer Olympics Team, Flowers surprisingly turned to bobsledding. In a twist of fate, she found sweet success as a brakewoman instantly. As a result, she obtained a spot in the 2002 Winter Olympics, which were being held in Salt Lake City. 

On Feb.19, 2002, Flowers, along with driver Jill Bakken, sled to the finish line and achieved first place glory. By winning the bobsledding race, Flowers and Bakken received the gold medal, crowning the former as the first African-American woman to earn this prestigious award. 

Unlike her fellow bobsled champions, Flowers became famous nationwide once she returned from Salt Lake City. She appeared on newspapers, online blogs and discussion boards and even as a guest on “The Today Show” with Katie Couric. 

Flowers returned to the snowy stage in the 2006 Winter Olympics, located in Turin, Italy. At this competition, Flowers and her new teammate placed sixth, a fall from the surprise of her first place victory just four years ago. 

It was after this Olympic season that Flowers decided to retire from competition. 

In 2010, Flowers was elected to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. She was inducted that following May, cementing herself as a part of not only Alabama’s history, but as an inspiration for other African-American women who want to be just like her. 

In the years since Flowers’s retirement, many women of color have achieved similar great heights in the world of sports. Specifically, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles have consistently been trailblazers in the world of gymnastics. 

With a total of 10 olympic gold medals earned between the two young gymnasts, it’s clear that the legacy of Flowers has not been forgotten and has influenced a new generation of African-American women who strive to be the best.

~Elijah Williams, Staff Writer~

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