Black figure skating duo first in Olympic history

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(NNPA)—Many viewers in the African-American community took an interest in the Winter Olympics to follow Black speed skater Shani Davis. But they had another reason to tune into the Winter Games this year.

French pairs skaters Yannick Bonheur and Vanessa James made history on Feb. 21 when they became the first Black duo to participate in Olympic figure skating competition.

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MAKING HISTORY—France’s Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur perform their pairs free program during the figure skating competition at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Feb. 15. They are the first Black pairs skating team to compete in the Olympic Games.

The pair teamed up two years ago after Bonheur split up with his former skating partner, Marylin Pla. The 27-year-old athlete then placed an advertisement online for a replacement. According to the Canadian-born James, her aunt saw it and convinced her 22-year-old niece to team up with Bonheur.

“It’s destiny and I’m very happy about it,” Bonheur told reporters. “There’s the grace and beauty of Vanessa and then my athleticism. And the fact that we’re both Black brings a pleasing visual harmony.”

The pair traveled to the United States in August 2009 to train with famous Russian coach Sergei Zaitsev in Indianapolis. They earned their way to the Olympics by winning the French nationals, and now they’re ready to leave their mark on international history.

“This is just the beginning. We want to make a name for ourselves so that they’ll remember us for next season,” Bonhuer told reporters. “We want to climb the ladder to show that Black skaters can stand on the podium.”

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