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US Women's Bobsled Team Takes Olympic Gold - 2002-02-21


Gold medallists Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers say they are tired but excited after bringing the United States its first Olympic medal in bobsled in nearly 50 years.

The U.S. bobsled team earned the gold with a combined time for two runs of 01:37.76. Pilot Jill Bakken said she hasn't had much sleep since Tuesday's win, and still feels the excitement. "It was amazing," she recalled. "It was so exciting because our families were at the bottom of the track when we finished the race, and our coaches and our teammates and the men's team was there. So it was a lot of fun."

Bakken and Flowers outperformed the favored U.S. bobsled team led by Jean Racine, and two German teams that earned the silver and bronze. "The competition between the top five sleds is really difficult most of the time," said Jill Bakken. "The Germans are so strong, the Swiss are always strong, and also the other U.S. teams."

Vonetta Flowers is a track coach at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and she always expected to compete in the summer Olympics. She's the first African-American to win the gold medal at the winter games, and hopes to inspire African-American youngsters to pursue winter sports.

What does the future hold for Flowers? Maybe a visit to Torino, Italy, for the next winter games four years from now. But first, she said, she has some other plans. "My plan after this is to start a family, and if God sees fit for me to come back, then I'll be back," she said.

Bobsledder Jill Bakken lives near Salt Lake City, and still has a year to go as a student at the University of Utah. "I'm going to take a little time off, think about what I want to do, and figure it out then," she said.

The last time a U.S. team won an Olympic medal in bobsled was in 1956, when the men's team earned the bronze.

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