It was a historic showing for Black women at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
First, Ocala, Florida native Erin Jackson became the first Black woman to win a speedskating medal at an Olympics, capturing gold in the 500-meters on Day 9. On the same day, bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor, at 37, became the oldest American female athlete to win a medal at the Winter Olympics, earning silver in the monobob.
The monobob was one of seven new events held in Beijing and was exclusive to women. Men have had the four-man sled dating back to the first Winter Olympics held in 1924 and subsequently the two-man sled added at the 1932 Olympics. But prior to this past Winter Olympics, which concluded on Sunday, their female counterparts were limited to just the two-woman sled, introduced as an Olympic sport in 2002.
After finishing second in the monobob to Canadian born Kallie Humphries, who became a U.S. citizen in early December 2021, making her eligible to compete for Team USA in Beijing, Meyers set a new standard for Black winter Olympians. By garnering a bronze medal on Saturday in the two-woman sled with Sylvia Hoffman, the former president of the Women’s Sports Foundation became the most decorated Black Winter Olympics athlete.
The victory gave Meyers five medals, her first coming at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia when she won silver in the two-woman sled, surpassing groundbreaking speed skater Shani Davis, who attained his four medals at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics.
“It’s so crazy to hear that stat and to know that I’m part of a legacy that’s bigger than me,” said Meyers after her unmatched accomplishment. “Hopefully it just encourages more and more Black athletes to come out to winter sports and not just Black athletes, winter sports for everybody.
“We want everybody to come out regardless of the color of your skin,” said the George Washington University graduate, where she played for the softball team. “We want winter sports to be for everybody, regardless of race, regardless of socio-economic class. I think the more diversity we have, the stronger our sport can be.”
Meyers has been a highly visible and active proponent of racial equity and equality. An article written by her and published by Team USA on June 26, 2020, titled “Even Olympic Medals Can’t Save You From,” details Meyers’ personal experiences and broader perspective of racism. She wrote, “In just his four short months of being alive, I can tell when my son Nico needs me. I can hear it in his cry when he just wants to be held by mommy.
“Nico was born pre-maturely. He spent eight days in the NICU and during that time I watched helplessly as my tiny, newborn baby fought for every breath. It nearly broke me.
“George Floyd fought to breathe while the knee of a police officer squeezed his neck. As he gasped for air and fought to live, he called for his mother.
“George Floyd…was once someone’s Nico…I was five years old when I was first called the n-word… I had always believed that once I reached the elite level of sport people wouldn’t care about the color of your skin.
“As a Black pilot, I’m able to buy most sleds in the world except one—and that one manufacturer currently makes one of the fastest sleds on tour. But I wouldn’t buy it even if I could.
“This one manufacturer refuses to sell to Black pilots and has been quoted saying ‘if I wanted to see a monkey drive a sled, I’d go to the zoo.’”
Meyers has risen above the vitriol but continues the battle against racism. She ended the Beijing Olympics as Team USA’s flag bearer at the Closing Ceremony. Chosen to be this country’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, she tested positive for COVID and was quarantined for the celebration.