16 years ago in Salt Lake City, Vonetta Flowers become the first black person to win a Winter Olympics gold medal some 78 years after the first winter games took place. In a 2018 Winter Olympics that is devoid of much in the way of diversity, though, Black women are making their mark in the Bobsled competition in ways that no other event can match.
Sixteen years after Flowers’ crowning achievement, black athletes are setting new benchmarks in Pyeongchang.
In anticipation of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, Team USA bobsled athletes Aja Evans, Jamie Greubel Poser, and Elana Meyers Taylor talk about what it means to compete in South Korea. Subscribe to TIME http://po.st/SubscribeTIME Get closer to the world of entertainment and celebrity news as TIME gives you access and insight on the people who make what you watch, read and share.
In addition to the Nigerians and the Jamaican team, there was a significant Black presence throughout the 20-team field, including on both of the United States entries, Canada, Britain and Germany.
The first appearance at a Winter Olympics by the Jamaican men’s bobsled team took place in 1988. And now the Jamaican women are breaking barriers as well.
And while the majority of Team USA in all sports at the Winter Games is predominantly made up of white athletes, the bobsled is something different altogether, where only two of the nine athletes in contention to make the women’s squad for Pyeongchang were white.
Brakewoman Aja Evans, a five-time All-American shot putter for the University of Illinois, won bronze in Sochi four years ago.
Black women are making a major impact on sleds all over the standings. The Nigerian squad, which didn’t exist at the last Olympic games, is comprised of American track athletes with family ties to Nigeria.
Seun Adigun competed for Nigeria in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and as she watched Aja Evans and other friends transition from the track to the bobsled, she decided to take on a bigger challenge by founding Nigeria’s first bobsled program.
In a relatively short period of time, they’ve secured sponsorship deals with major corporations and become one of the most popular teams competing at these 2018 Winter Games. As beginners to the sport, they’re aware that, despite their blossoming popularity, they had little chance of winning a medal. But what they could do was try their best to get better in a short period of time with the larger goal of inspiring others.
The Nigerian pair of Adigun and Akuoma Omeoga were the slowest of all 20 sleds in the event, but they competed for something much bigger than fast times. Their crowning achievement was becoming the first women to represent an African nation in the sport.
Their motto is, All we have to give is everything that weve got.
Elana Meyers Taylor is an African-American, veteran bobsledder who has been giving the sport everything she’s had for some time now. In addition to being one of its top athletes, she’s made it her mission to recruit elite athletes from other sports.
Four years ago in Sochi, she won a Silver Medal in the two-woman bobsled. And now, after winning another Silver this year alongside her pusher, Lauren Gibbs, she’s now the most decorated female bobsledder in Olympic history.
@eamslider24 makes the podium for her 3rd straight #WinterOlympics while brakeman, @lagibbs84, makes an unforgettable debut with the pair taking home SILVER! : https://t.co/jb7MYzJbyF
Despite not winning the gold medal this year, she was still enthralled with the changing face of the sport as Nigeria lived its dream, the Jamaican women replicated the mens achievement from 30 years ago, and black women from all over the field represented.
I love this sport, and I want people to have the opportunities that I have, Meyers Taylor told The Washington Post. I want the kid in the inner city to know that she can be a bobsledder one day, and I want the kid in the middle of Africa to know that she can be a bobsledder one day. So the more that we can go out there and grow the sport, the better.