By: Helena Kaufman The Afro News Vancouver
Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics to be held February 12 to 28 and the Paralympic Winter Games March 12 -21 welcome 80 nations and 5,500 of their top athletes and officials. Afric athletes are sure to excel in the strength of spirit and skill that will contribute to the setting of standards and creation of stories for the telling.
Vonetta Flowers’, the first black person, ever, to win gold in a Winter Olympics. She was the “pusher” in the USA 2-woman bobsled team that won gold in 2002 at Salt Lake City.
Vancouver is the site of another historical note. Winter Olympian, Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, the “Snow Leopard”, has qualified in both the Slalom and Giant Slalom down hill ski events. He is the first athlete ever to represent Ghana in the Winter Olympics.
There are many Canadian connections via the Afric community contribution. Immortalized mid run is Harry Jerome, in a statue honouring his exceptional championship record in the 100 meter dash between 1962-68, and the bronze medal he won at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics
Philip Aaron Edwards M.D. was Canada’s most decorated Olympian and the first black athlete to win a trophy at what are now known as the Commonwealth Games. His five Olympic medals gave the prolific winner Edwards the nickname ‘Man of Bronze’.
Canada also stood tall on the podium with Donovan Bailey who won his first Olympic gold in 1996 with his record breaking 100 meter dash at 9.84 seconds and Charmaine Crooks, five-time Olympian and 1984 Olympic silver medalist.
Other barrier breaking athletes include: Willie O’Ree, the first black player in the National Hockey League, working with the Boston Bruins between 1958-61, and for Canadian teams before and after; Fergie (Ferguson) Jenkins, recognized all over North America as one of the greats, was the first Canadian in the Baseball Hall of Fame; Bernie Custis, played quarterback for the Hamilton Ti-Cats at time when the NFL could not place a black player in a leadership role south of the Canadian border. Chuck Ealey, followed decades later for similar opportunity and led his team to victory in the Grey Cup final and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame as a Builder.
All our Canadian athletes are inspirations whose accomplishments support the dreams of others through their pursuit of excellence and high values. The Afro News wishes all the best of speed, strength and heart.