Vonetta Flowers as Good as Gold: Former Track Star Is the First Black Person to Win a Gold Medal at the Winter Olympics

Article excerpt

IN 1 minute and 37.76 seconds, Vonetta Flowers' life changed forever. The 28-year-old assistant track and field coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham entered the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City as an unsung hopeful. But in less than 2 minutes, she made history as the first Black person to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

"My heart just dropped," said Flowers after her triumph as a member of the two-person women's bobsled team. "I thought I was dreaming. Tears started to shed ... My dream had come true, to win a gold medal."

The route that Flowers took to get that Olympic gold medal had as many twists and turns as a bobsled run. She had planned originally to win Olympic glory as a long jumper in the 2000 Summer Olympics. But when she failed to qualify in the long jump, she took the advice of her husband, Johnny Flowers, a BlueCross BlueShield official, and tried out for the U.S. bobsled team. The Olympic champion said she couldn't have made it without her college sweetheart. "He coached me in my strength and sprint workouts. We both sacrificed getting up at 5 a.m. to workout before work, and he gave up vacation time to travel with me."

Flowers joined Jill Bakken, the bobsled driver, who was responsible for guiding the sled through the course at speeds of up to 85 mph. …