The first person of African descent, male or female, to wina gold medal at the Winter Olympics was Vonetta Flowers when she won gold inthe womens bobsled event in 2002 at SaltLake City.
Born October 29, 1973, in Birmingham, Alabama,to Jimmie Jeffrey, a maintenance director for a trucking company, and BobbieJeffrey, a hotel maid, Vonetta Jeffrey had a dream of Olympic gold, but intrack and field. After beating all other students in a race at Jonesboro Elementary School, Flowers begancompeting in track and field events. She ran track at P.D. JacksonOlin HighSchool as well as playing on the volleyball andbasketball teams. As a high school senior, Flowers won four track and fieldevents at the Alabama State Championships and several colleges offered herathletic scholarships.
Flowers graduated from the Universityof Alabama at Birmingham in 1995. While at college, she metJohnny Flowers, a fellow freshman member of the track team and her futurehusband. The son of a minister, Johnny Flowers encouraged Vonettas involvementin church and she became a born-again Christian.
Flowers tried out for the 1996 U.S. Summer Olympic team inthe 100-meter dash and the long jump, but she was not successful. After anotherfailed attempt in 2000, Flowers decided to retire from track and field. A fewdays later, her husband saw a flyer looking for track athletes willing to tryout for the U.S.bobsled team. Johnny Flowers try-out ended with an injury, but Vonetta Flowerswas soon competing in a sport she initially knew little about.
On February 19, 2002, brakewoman Flowers and her driver JillBakken won gold at the inaugural womens bobsled event at the Olympic Games inSalt Lake City. The gold was also the first medal won by a U.S. bobsled team in forty-sixyears. Six months later, on August 30, Vonetta Flowers gave birth prematurelyto her twin sons, Jaden Michael and Jorden Maddox. Traveling the world with herhusband and sons, Flowers continued to train and compete around the world. Sheand sledding partner Jean (Racine)Prahm came in sixth in