Local athlete first African American to win gold at winter games

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Vonetta Flowers still chokes up when she remembers what it was like to stand on that medal platform in Salt Lake City in 2002. She won the gold, but not in the sport she trained in for years and years.

When Vonetta was just 9 years old, she was already showing talent as a track runner. She wound up coaching at UAB and still pursued her dream of making the Olympic team in track for the summer Olympics.

But she didn't make the team. She told students at John E. Ford that, yes, it was crushing. But she didn't give up and they should never give up either.

The story then takes an interesting turn.

Her husband Johnny spotted a sign advertising for bobsled team members. Vonetta thought he was crazy. But Johnny knew she wanted to be in the Olympics and she wasphysically strong.

She tried out and made the team.

Vonetta says she had to gain 20-30 pounds of muscle and change her "track frame" into that of a bobsled athlete. She and her teammate had to carry the bobsled, which weighed around 450 pounds. Plus, she had to push the bobsled as fast as possible to kick off the race with gusto.

In Salt Lake Vonetta made history, according to NBC reporters on the scene, as the first African American athlete to win gold in a winter Olympics in any sport.

Now Vonetta says she's "proud" because "God could have given the title to anyone and He chose me."

Her passion now is her family and her desire to make sure inner-city kids know they each have the potential to work hard and make their dreams happen. "Reach for the stars," she told the students at John E. Ford.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment