Maame Biney became the first black woman to qualify for a U.S. Olympic speedskating team with a pair of victories in the 500 meters.
The 17-year-old Ghanaian native cruised to victory in the first 500 final at the short track trials on Saturday. (After visiting her father Kweku in the U.S. at five years old, she fell in love with the States and never left – a year later he enrolled her in figure skating, but her speed on the ice didn't quite work for the sport. At the suggestion of a coach, she switched to speedskating and never looked back.)
Biney set a blistering pace in taking an early lead that widened as the wild and woolly race went on – her spot atop the podium meant she beat out former Olympians Lana Gehring (2010 bronze medalist), Jessica Kooreman and Katherine Reutter-Adamek ( 2010 silver and bronze medalist). No, your eyes are not deceiving you. She's only 17 and she beat out former OLYMPIC MEDALISTS!
After crossing the finish line on the hockey-sized rink, Biney began clapping and then pumping her arms so hard she lost her balance and fell. She went down laughing all the way.
"When I realized that I made the Olympic team, I started cheering like crazy, and then I made my epic fall,'' she said.
"I can't believe it,'' she said after squealing with joy at her big win. "It's a really good feeling, but it has to set in first because it takes me a while. I'm like, 'holy cow.'''
Before the second final, her father sat in the stands holding up a sign that read: "Kick some hiney Biney.'' She sure did, but clever dad jokes aside, Biney is thankful for his support. "He’s been through everything and I’m amazed by him," she told reporters. "I just want to thank him a lot for everything."
Biney will be the second black speedskater on a U.S. Olympic team (but the first black woman). Shani Davis was 19 when he qualified for the short track team in 2002. He later switched to long track and won four medals, including two golds – and will try to make the long track team at its pre-Olympic trials next month.