Vonetta Flowers: First African- American to win gold medal at Wi - CBS46 News

Vonetta Flowers: First African- American to win gold medal at Winter Olympics

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Vonetta Flowers | Source: Wikimedia Commons Vonetta Flowers | Source: Wikimedia Commons

Fifteen years ago on this day (February 19) Vonetta Flowers would make history and become the first African-American to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was a pusher in the women's two-man bobsled team.

Flowers had long dreamed of winning an Olympic gold medal but not in the bobsled category. She spent her lifetime training and competing in track and field events, and even qualified for the Olympic Trails in 1996 and 2000.

Two days after the 2000 Olympic Trials, Vonetta's husband, Johnny, spotted a flyer urging Track and Field athletes to tryout for the U.S. bobsled team, but neither one knew much about what bobsledding actually was.

She agreed to accompany her husband as he tried out for the team; however, shortly after the competition started, Johnny pulled his hamstring. Vonetta agreed to live out his dream by completing the six-item test, and her decision to do this would change her life forever.

Less than 2 months after the test, Vonetta would compete for the U.S. in bobsled. She quickly became the #1 brake woman in the U.S. By the end of her rookie season, Vonetta and her former teammate, Bonny Warner, were ranked 2nd in the U.S. and 3rd in the world.

A year later Vonetta and her new partner, Jill Bakken, slid into history by winning the gold medal at the inaugural Women's Olympic bobsled event, which was the 1st medal for a U.S. bobsled team in 46 years.

During this time, it was rare for non-white Winter Olympians to even compete, let alone actually win a medal. The first black medalist in the Winter Olympics had been American figure skater Debi Thomas, who won bronze in 1988. 

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