In honor of Black History Month at CSU, Vonetta Flowers, the first Black woman to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics, came to speak words of hope and encouragement to students Wednesday night at the LSC Theater in celebration of Black History Month.
“I hope that I’ll say something that will reaffirm your beliefs that there are truly no limits of what you can accomplish when you refuse to take short-cuts, surround yourself with positive people, and continue to prepare for future opportunities,” Flowers said to the crowd of 40 students, most of them athletes.
Her unlikely journey from Summer Olympic tryouts to the winter sport of bobsledding brought a sense of fate to her life. Two days after her second failed track tryout in 2000, she and her husband Johnny Flowers saw a flier on a corkboard advertising positions for the U.S. bobsled team.
As big fans of the 1993 movie “Cool Runnings,” the sport held strange appeal for her and her husband, and they decided to try out together as a joke.
After Johnny pulled his hamstring and could no longer compete, he encouraged her to keep going.
So she did, and with years of track and field experience behind her, Vonetta Flowers joined the 2002 U.S. Olympic two-person bobsled team and helped them win the gold in the first ever women’s Olympic bobsled races.
“It’s funny, because sometimes you don’t realize why you meet people, or why things happen, but if you’re prepared for the opportunity, you can seize the moment,” Flowers said.
Sheree Van Buren, a sophomore business administration major said Flowers exemplifies the mission of Black activists since the Civil Rights Movement.
“We’re celebrating Black History Month, and her accomplishments go along with the theme – ‘phenomenal women,'” Van Buren said. “Being the first African-American woman to win a gold medal is something phenomenal and she needs to be celebrated and recognized for that and I think that her story should be shared and will have an impact on everyone.”
Flowers went on from her Olympic achievement to use her life story of accomplishment against formidable odds and her distinct place in history to provide inspiration to a multitude of different audiences, including CSU students Wednesday night.
Student athletes cited Flowers as a big inspiration and motivator not just for the Black community, but also for the athletic and life goals of youth no matter their race.
“She’s pretty much gotten the highest honor you can get (as an athlete), an Olympic gold medal,” said Eranne Daugharthy, a freshman animal science major, who plays intramural softball at CSU. “I think it keeps us pushing harder and working harder to get our goals,”
Another softball player, Ivory Allen, a freshman human development and family studies major, said Flowers conveyed a message to aspiring athletes in a way most coaches and everyday roll models can’t.
“I think it’s important for the female athletes because she’s a role model that they can look up to,” Allen said.
“There are truly no limits as to what you can accomplish, if you remember that winning is not an event-it’s a lifestyle,” Flowers said. “So each day, you’ll prepare for the next opportunity, use your conscience as your guide, trust in God, and believe that anything is possible.”
Staff writer Andy Dose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vonetta Flowers-Olympic Gold Medalist
“Instead of giving up, keep the faith, continue working hard, believe that the doors of opportunity are always open.”
“Some people are in a similar position, wondering what the future holds.my suggestion to you is that you fight through the pain, surround yourself with people who won’t let you quit, and keep a positive attitude until the opportunity comes.”
“I became the first person, male or female, of African descent to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics.”
“My biggest future plans: It changes day-to-day, because it’s all about my family right now, and my kids.”