The U.S. team in this year’s Winter Olympic Games is the most racially diverse in the history of the Games, according to The Washington Post. The team has three African- Americans participating in this year’s Games-Vonetta Flowers on the women’s bobsled team; Randy Jones, an alternate on the man’s bobsled team and Shani Davis on the speed skating team.
The Winter Games that began Feb. 10 in Turin, Italy had a reputation of being dominated by Whites, until athletes from Cuban, Puerto Rican, Japanese and African descent were included in this year’s games, which end Feb. 26.
With the U.S. Olympic Committee supporting outreach programs and the national governing bodies of several sports actively seeking to identify and train talented athletes in urban areas, the U.S. team is beginning to look more like a cross-section of America, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
“I’ve definitely seen the winter sport of it evolve,” said Jones, a Winston-Salem, N.C. native, to The Washington Post. He has competed in two previous Olympics and won a silver medal in 2002. “There’s more color getting involved in all sports.”
Unlike the Summer Olympics, in which 10,000 athletes from more than 200 nations participate, The Washington Post reported that the Turin Games will include about 2,500 athletes from 87 countries.
“Well, for the most part we [Black people] don’t grow up playing any of these sports and that goes for other minorities too,” said Wesley McKutchin, a senior majoring in advertising at Howard University. “Not that it’s not important to have diversity, but when you don’t grow up in communities that have access or an interest in these sports then [it’s a challenge to] make it diverse.”
"Not only was I the first African-American but the first black athlete from any nation to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics," said Flowers, the Birmingham, Ala. native, to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "[But] I truly feel blessed and honored to have that title. I’m really excited that my grandkids will be reading about me in history books."
Davis is a speed skater, a sport that is much like rollerblading, except the wheels are replaced by blades and one skates on ice.Davis, born and raised on the south side of Chicago, could be one of the Games’ biggest and brightest stories according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
A short-track Olympian in 2002, he is the world record-holder in the 1,000 meters, the former record-holder in the 1,500 and the reigning world all-around champion.Davis willingly accepts being a role model for African-Americans, but he sees the bigger picture, too.
"To me, personally, it doesn’t matter what color I am," Davis said to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Black or white, Asian or Hispanic, it doesn’t matter to me as long as the message I’m portraying to people that watch me on TV is positive and it shows that they can do things that are different besides catching a football, hitting a baseball or shooting a basketball. I’m just showing them that stepping outside the bubble is OK and they can be successful at it," he said.
Another Black student said that she is happy these athletes are setting records in diversifying the Winter Olympic Games.
“I think it is wonderful that we have minorities that are striving for unpredictable goals, and achieving their dreams,” said Chaundra Brown, a junior majoring in human development at Howard University. “They are remarkable role models! They are showing people that you can do whatever you put your mind to!"