17-year-old native of Ghana, Maame Biney became the first black woman to qualify for a U.S. Olympic speedskating team with a pair of victories in the 500 meters. Maame Biney cruised to victory in the first 500 final at the short track trials on Saturday, beating Olympians Lana Gehring, Jessica Kooreman, and Katherine Reutter-Adame handily.
The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games will be Biney’s first Olympics.
“I can’t believe it,” she told reporters. “It’s a really good feeling, but it has to set in first because it takes me a while. I’m like, ‘Holy Cow.’ When I crossed the finish line, I don’t know what I was thinking. I was just like, ‘I got first! That’s so cool!’”
Before the second final, her father sitting in the stands held up a sign reading: “Kick some hiney Biney.”
She sure did.
Biney set a blistering pace in taking an early lead that widened as the wild and wooly race went on. She crossed the finish line on the hockey-sized rink and began clapping and then pumping her arms so hard she lost her balance and fell.
She went down laughing all the way.
Maame, whose parents are Ghanaian, will be the second black speed skater on a U.S. Olympic team. Shani Davis was 19 when he qualified for the short-track team in 2002. He later switched to long track and won four medals, including two golds, according to USA Today.
Biney was born on January 28, 2000 in Accra, Ghana, a country on the western side of Africa.
She started skating lessons at six years old after moving to Reston, Virigina to live with her father, Kweku.
The father and daughter were driving one day when Kweku saw a “learn to skate this fall” sign on the side of the road. He asked Biney if she was interested, then had to explain to her what ice skating was.
“She didn’t even know what that word [skating] was and I explained it to her. The only thing cold in Ghana is cold beer,” he told the AP.
She started with figure skaitng lessons then switched to speed skating on a coach’s recommendation.
Maame Biney broke through on the world stage at the 2017 World Junior Championships, held last January in Innsbruck, Austria. Biney won a bronze in the 500m, and finished seventh overall.
Biney proved she’s one of the U.S.’ top skaters at the 2017 Short Track World Cup Qualifiers, an August competition that determined which short track skaters would compete at the fall World Cups. Biney won the 500m and finished in the top three in the 1000m and 1500m, earning her the top overall ranking.