(NNPA)–There are five African-American athletes to keep an eye on during the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi in Krasnodar Krai, Russia.
Speed skater Shani Davis, along with women’s bobsled members Lolo Jones, Lauryn Williams, Aja Evans and Jasmine Fenlator, are each in position to help make American history in the Winter Olympics.
Davis, 31, already made history by becoming the first Black male athlete to win a Winter Games Olympic individual sport medal when he won gold in the 1000-meter speed skating event at the 2006 Olympics at Turin. He won gold in the same event at the 2010 Winter Games at Vancouver, and could become the first American to ever win three straight Winter Games Olympic gold medals if he wins the 1000-meter again in Sochi.
Unlike Davis, though already seasoned Olympians, Jones and Williams will be performing in their first Winter Games, both as members of the USA women’s bobsled team. Jones, 31, is one of the most famous hurdlers for team USA, but switched to bobsled with hopes of earning her first ever Olympic medal. She had fell just short of winning a medal as a hurdler during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, finishing in 4th place in the 100-meter hurdlers.
According to reports, Jones persuaded Williams to join her on the women’s bobsled team to help her chances at taking the gold at Sochi. Williams, 30, won a gold medal during the Summer Games in London with the women’s 4×100-meter relay team. If she wins a gold medal in the women’s bobsled event, she’ll become the first woman to ever win a gold medal in both the summer and winter Olympics.
A win for Williams and Jones would also mean a gold medal for Evans and Fenlator, too. Evans, 25, who competed in the shot put and sprinting in college, is the brakeman for the team, and Fenlator, 28, will serve as the diver. All four women are looking to become the only African-American women to win a Winter Olympic medal besides Vonette Flowers, the first ever Black athlete to win a Winter Olympic medal when she won gold in the 2-man bobsled event in 2002 Olympics at Salt Lake City.
Black athletes in Sochi for Olympics
Shani Davis: Speed skating
About Davis: Davis began roller skating at age 2 in Chicago. He quickly became bored with roller skating, as he was always “getting in trouble for skating around the rink at high speeds.” At age 6 a coach suggested he switch to ice skating. Shortly thereafter, his mother started working for an attorney, whose son was involved in speed skating. These influences led him to switch, and he joined the Evanston Speed Skating Club the same year.
Most memorable achievement: Winning gold in the 1000m at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, and winning gold at the 2005 and 2006 world all around championships.
Future goals: To win gold in the 1500m at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, to make him the first male speed skater to win gold at three consecutive Games.
Aja Evans: Bobsled
About Evans: Previously a sprinter and shot put athlete, her coach at the University of Illinois mentioned bobsled to her while watching the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. She considered the physical attributes required for the sport, and realized she had all of them. She first tried bobsled in October 2012 in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Her hero: U.S. heptathlete and long jumper Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Future goals: To compete in bobsled at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, and in athletics at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Jazmine Fenlator: Bobsled
About Fenlator: She began bobsled in September 2007 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. Her college athletics coach Robert Pasquarillo sent in an application to the United States Olympic Committee on her behalf. “My first thought was a flashback to ‘Cool Runnings.’ My next thought was remembering how Vonetta Flowers became the first African-American woman to win a gold medal in a winter sport in the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, and it was in bobsled. I wanted to show disadvantaged kids that it’s not where you come from, it’s where you end up.”
Family trials: Her family almost lost their house in August 2011 because of Hurricane Irene. “The night before our ‘combine and push’ championships, which rank you for the start of the season, I got a call from my sister that there was four feet of water in our home and that they had been living in a hotel for a week.”
Future goals: To win a gold medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Lolo Jones: Bobsled
About Jones: She was looking for something different following the 2012 Olympic Games in London. That year, she took up bobsled. “Hurdlers get fired up with things in our way. We are used to obstacles, so I saw bobsled as a new challenge.”
Sporting philosophy: “I am inspired by failure. The process of defeat, picking yourself back up again, is the hardest thing in the world.”
Future goals: To win a medal in bobsled at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, and in the 100m hurdles at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Lauryn Williams: Bobsled
About Williams: Previously a sprinter, she won silver in the 100m at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2012 Games in London. She also won gold in the 100m at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. She began competing in bobsled in 2013.
Awards: She was named the 2004 Athlete of the Year by the Sports Council in the United States.
Goal: To win gold in bobsled at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Source: TeamUSA.com; Sochi2014.com.
Jessica R. Key, Indianalponis Recorder contributed to this report.