Black Winter Olympians

February is Black History Month as well as the beginning of the winter olympics. The Olympic games have a history of treating athletes of color differently and the winter games are known to have mostly white athletes. This year 94.9 percent of the winter Olympians are White. Despite the gap in representation, Black athletes have always persevered. Here is a list of 5 trailblazers who have made history at the Winter Olympics.

Debi Thomas was still a student studying at Stanford when she became the first Black athlete to earn a medal at the Winter Olympics. In 1988, she won bronze for Team U.S.A in figure skating and to this day she remains the only African American woman to win a medal in the event.

Vonetta Flowers represented Team U.S.A at the 2002 Olympics in the two-woman bobsleigh event. Her and her teammate, Jill Bakken, took home the gold medal making Vonetta the first Black athlete to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

Shani Davis was the first African American athlete to win gold in an individual event at the Winter Olympics. He won the gold medal in the 1000 meter speed skate at the 2006 Winter Olympics and again in 2010.

Mabel Fairbanks began ice skating in the 1920’s. As a young skater she was often denied entry to public skating rinks because of segregation. She wasn’t allowed to compete in national events including the Olympics but she still made a name for herself and continued coaching Olympic skaters. She became the first Black person inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1997.

Erin Jackson began figure skating when she was 8 but switched to speed skating when she was 17. After just four months of speed skating, she qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics. In November 2021, she won the Speed Skating World Cup making her the first African-American woman to win the competition. This month she is representing Team USA and competing in the 500 meter speed skate in Beijing.