11 Black Athletes Who Made Winter Olympic History

by Katie Mitchell
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This year, the Olympic Winter 2018 Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, coincide with Black History Month in the United States, a month-long celebration where the successes of Black people are lifted up for the world to see. With the Games in full swing, the public has been introduced to some incredible Black athletes who continue to make history. Black Olympic athletes come from a long line of pioneers who made it possible for them to compete and win at the Olympics. And even though the Olympic Games have been around for centuries, there are still Black athletes who become the first to compete in their sport at the Olympics.

The first modern Winter Olympic Games took place in 1924, in Chamonix, in the French Alps, according to Back then, only around 250 athletes participated in the Games, which only offered nine sports in total, according to The Washington Post. The only sport women could participate in back then was figure skating, but the games have changed drastically since then: around 3,000 athletes will participate in 15 sports across 102 events, according to the Mirror.

Ahead, check out some history-making Black athletes who have competed at the Olympics. You'll see some familiar faces and learn about some you've never heard of until now. These athletes are a cool example of how diverse Black history truly is.


Debi Thomas

In 1988, Debi Thomas became the first Black American to earn a medal at the Winter Olympics, according to HuffPost. She trained, competed, and placed all while being a student at Stanford University.


Erin Jackson

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Most athletes spend their entire lives training for the Olympics, but Erin Jackson qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics after learning how to speed skate just four months prior, according to the NBC Olympics site. She is the first Black woman to be on the U.S. long-track team.


Shani Davis

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Shani Davis is one of the most decorated long track speedskaters, with four Olympic medals under his belt, according to the Chicago Tribune. Davis is featured in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History as a legendary athlete.


Jordan Greenway

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Jordan Greenway is the first African-American player to represent the U.S. Hockey Team at the Olympics, according to ESPN.


Jarome Iginla

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Jarome Iginla became the first Black male athlete to earn a gold medal during the Winter Olympics in 2002, where he played for Canada, according to Complex. The hockey player scored two goals against the U.S. hockey team.


Vonetta Flowers

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Vonetta Flowers became the first Black Olympian to win a gold medal in bobsledding during the Winter Olympics in 2002, according to the Women's Sports Foundation.


Simidele Adeagbo

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Simidele Adeagbo is a member of Nigeria's first Winter Olympics team, and she's the first Nigerian to compete in skeleton, a sliding sport in which a person rides a small sled down an icy track while lying face down, according to TIME.


Akwasi Frimpong

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Akwasi Frimpong is Ghana's second athlete to ever compete in the Winter Olympics, and he's the first to represent the country in skeleton, according to Reuters.


Sabrina Simader

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Sabrina Simander of Kenya is the first person from her country to compete in alpine skiing, according to the official PyeongChang site. She's also the only athlete representing Kenya at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.


Elana Meyers Taylor

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Elana Meyers Taylor is the first woman to drive a four-man bobsled, and she's the only woman to represent the United States three times in bobsledding at the Winter Games, according to TIME.


Maame Biney

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Maame Biney is an 18-year-old originally from Ghana. She’s the first black woman to make the Olympic speedskating team, according to HuffPost and only the second African-born athlete to represent the U.S. in the Winter Olympics, according to NBC.

As you watch the remaining Olympic events, keep in mind that you're literally watching Black History in the making. Knowing that may inspire you to cheer for your favorite athletes a little harder.