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.

 

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Meet Vonetta Flowers. She is the first black person to ever win a gold medal in Winter Olympic history. She’s our #WednesdaysWoman. . Vonetta was a star track and field athlete at the University of Alabama. She tried twice to qualify for the summer Olympic Games but never made the cut. Soon thereafter, her husband heard a female team was being recruited and encouraged her to try out so she could use her sprinting skills. . In just two weeks, she learned how to push a sled and set a world start record with her new teammate. Shortly thereafter they won the gold in the World Cup. At the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, her lifelong dream of medaling came true when she and teammate Jill Bakker delivered an upset victory and won gold in the newly debuted women’s bobsled event. It was the first medal won by a U.S. bobsled team in 46 years! . Just six months later, she gave birth to twin boys. She’s now the mom to three boys, co-owns a fitness facility in Alabama and is an advocate for the March of Dimes. #TheAmericanMoms #wednesdayswoman #blackhistorymonth #olympics #vonettaflowers

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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

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