With the 2018 Winter Olympics set to get underway, CBS Local Sports will be profiling five young, up-and-coming, Olympic athletes whose names you will likely hear a lot during the course of the Games. These athletes are our “Rising Stars” for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.
Short-track speed skating is one of the most exciting parts of any Winter Olympic program. Skaters blaze around the ovular track in races that last anywhere between 40 seconds and 7 minutes depending on the distance of the race. The combination of power, speed and agility needed to be able to get through a race cleanly is mesmerizing to watch.
The U.S. speed skating teams over time have been among the top countries in the world in medals at the Winter Games, sitting third all-time in medal count with 67 behind Norway (80) and Netherlands (105). Some of the nation’s brightest stars have come from the speed skating track over the years, Apollo Anton Ono, Shani Davis, and Bonnie Blair to name a few. Entering the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, a new, young skater will look to begin etching her name into the history books.
17-year-old Maame Biney, from Reston, Virginia has become a star before the Games have even begun due to her performance at December’s Olympic Trials. Biney easily won the 500 meters and then proceeded to give a memorable interview that showed off her personality.
Biney is the first black woman to qualify for the Olympics in short track speed skating and just the third black member of the U.S. speed skating team, joining Shani Davis and Erin Jackson, who are both on the long track team. She got her start in the sport at the age of 6 after she moved to Virginia from Ghana to live with her father Kweku. She first appeared on the national radar when she took bronze in the 500m at the 2016-17 Short Track Junior World Championships.
Since then, she made the 2017-18 Short Track World Cup Team, and participated in four events. Her best finish came at Shanghai when she came in 5th. She also, finished 7th at Budapest and 10th in Seoul. The 500 is Biney’s favorite event for the same reason that it’s yours or mine: it’s fast. Speaking with TeamUSA.org, Biney said:
“It’s short and fast and those are my two favorite things about skating, going really fast in a short race.”
Her coaches have had high praise for Biney in her time with the national team, with Anthony Bartell telling the Associated Press:
“She’s a natural athlete. Most natural athletes have a hard transition to skating because speedskating is so unnatural. It goes against everything you’re taught as an athlete. So for her, she’s learned how to skate and is able to use her natural athletic abilities… In my eyes, I feel she can be one of the top girls in the world. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but she has the potential.”
If nothing else, Biney’s personality alone will make her one of the more memorable athletes of these Olympic Games. The fact that she has the raw, natural talent that has transitioned easily to the sport, means she could be around for awhile. Get to know the name now, because Maame Biney is looking to light up the screen in the coming weeks. The women’s qualification heats for the 500 meters begin on February 10th with the final slated for the 13th.