News / Europe

    Black Athletes Break Color Barrier at Winter Olympics

    Black Athletes Break Color Barrier at Winter Olympicsi
    X
    February 21, 2014 3:16 PM
    Traditionally, white athletes have dominated at the Winter Olympics. James Brooke reports from Sochi on more black athletes breaking the games informal color bar this year.
    James Brooke
    Cross country skier Mathilde Petitjean sees herself as a pioneer. She is the first athlete from the West African country of Togo to compete in the Winter Olympics.
     
    “I think that I will inspire more Africans to ski, people of black color, to want to ski,” she said, standing with her skis by the cross country course. “There may be more skating. There is no snow in Africa, but they can build skating rinks.”
     
    And the welcome in Russia, this land of snow and ice?
     
    She responded with a big smile: “Very, very well. Everyone is super nice with me. A lot of racers ask me where I train, because in Africa there is no snow.”

    Traditionally, athletes in the Winter Olympics have been as white as the snow and ice they compete on. But this year, more and more, black athletes are competing in the Sochi Winter Olympics
     
    There is American speed skater Shani Davis, French female figure skater Maé Bérénice Méité, and American bobsledder Lauryn Williams, who won a silver medal on Wednesday.
     
    The big celebrities in Sochi are the Jamaican bobsled team, who returned to the Winter Olympics this week after a 12-year absence.
     
    Winston Watts, their team captain, talks about the future: “The goal towards the next Olympics is that we are going to develop younger pilots, get younger athletes to pursue their dream to go forward to Korea.”
     
    The most proactive are the Togolese, who have trolled the Internet for prospective winter sports athletes and held press conferences in Sochi.
     
    “We have been in Sochi 10 days now and we have candidacies of at least 20 Togolese living abroad who would like to participate,” Mawuli Ramanou, Development Director of Togo’s Olympic Committee, told reporters on Thursday.
     
    Togo’s Ski Coach Steve Grundmann, a German, said: “No one believed in us, and everybody was laughing about us, and we never stopped, and we really continued and we believed in it. We said wanted to bring Togo on that winter sports map, and we did it!”

    He added: “We created a skiing federation in Western Africa.”
     
    Back on the mountain, by the Olympic cross-country ski course, Nicolas Ramanou, Togo Ski Federation technical director, threw down a challenge to other African nations:  “As long as there are African jet pilots, there can also be Africans who can ski.”
     
    If trends hold up, more black athletes will compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics, in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Beth from: NYC
    February 23, 2014 9:16 AM
    Awesome job Steve!! Can't wait for Korea!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora