Vonetta Flowers had her Summer Olympics hopes dashed twice after being unable to qualify for two U.S. track and field teams in 1996 and 2000 respectively. However, she went on to become the first Black athlete to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

Flowers was born October 29, 1973, and raised in Birmingham, Ala. where she was a star track and field athlete.  The 1995 University of Alabama graduate met her future husband, track athlete Johnny Flowers, while in school, and he played a critical part in her career shift.



After failing to qualify for the 100-meter dash and long jump events in consecutive trials, Flowers considered retiring. But when her husband noticed an ad that asked track athletes to try out for the U.S. bobsled teams, they both did. While Johnny Flowers failed to make the team due to an injury, his wife flourished and made the women’s 2-woman team, an inaugural event in the 1996 Winter Games.

Flowers, as brakeman, and driver Jill Bakken, took home gold in the women’s bobsled event,  becoming the first gold medal winners for women in the sport. Six months after the Olympics, Flowers gave birth to twin boys, Jordan and Jaden. She eventually retired from competition in 2006, but remains an ambassador for the Olympics and the sport.

The 2014 Winter Olympics featured five Black members on the six-woman bobsled team with one pair, Elena Meyers and Lauryn Williams, winning gold, with a bronze medal for Aja Evans.

PHOTO: Public Domain