Maame Biney: Smiling speed skater heads to Beijing stronger than ever after almost quitting
Within two years, she was seriously considering walking away from the ice.
The 22-year-old stamped her ticket to Beijing with a first-placed finish at the US short track Olympic trials in December, marking a triumphant recovery after coming “pretty close” to quitting the sport at the outset of 2020.
“I finished out the season and I was like, ‘I’ll try again’ and I’m pretty happy that I did because I met some amazing people along the way in the last two years.”
Having competed in the 500m and 1,500m events in PyeongChang, Biney did not return home to Virginia with a medal but undoubtedly left a lasting impact — not least on aspiring Black athletes in the US.
“It meant a lot because I know that I was able to represent my community in ways that they haven’t felt represented,” Biney said.
“Especially in sports and especially in a sport that is majority White and Asian. Being able to fulfill that dream and hopefully let other young Black women and men really just say, ‘Oh man, I can overcome these obstacles that are in my life.’
“I hope that I was able to stir that pot a little bit within them.”
Her famous smile and bubbly personality — the subject of intense media spotlight — masked anxieties and a weight on her shoulders that felt “way too heavy.”
Yet Biney now feels she has the tools to deal with such issues, a resilience bolstered by a loving support network.
“I’ve learned how mentally strong I am and how I can overcome the obstacles and the speed bumps that that life brings me,” Biney told Wire.
“I’ve also learned that I have a really big and very supportive community behind me that wants me to do well.
“Even if I don’t do well or even if I’m disappointed within myself, they’re still there for me and they still love me for who I am as a human being, which is amazing.”
‘The world needs more laughter’
She subsequently headed to Beijing free of pressure, weighed down by nothing but a feeling of raw excitement.
“I’ve worked a lot and I’ve worked super hard in order to get to this point and I’m super, super excited to represent the US in Beijing,” Biney said.
“I don’t really have any expectations. I’m just gonna go out there and race and have fun and be happy and be confident within my abilities and we’ll see where that gets me.”
It is telling of Biney’s personality then, that her only explicit expectation for Beijing this month is that she spreads happiness.
“The world needs more laughter,” Biney said.
“The world needs a lot of smiling and happiness in general because it’s not a great world sometimes to be in.
“If people are able to laugh and cry of joy and happiness, have love in their life, then their life is going to be more fulfilled. I hope that me being there will help them achieve that.”
Previous reporting by Elliot C. McLaughlin and Matthew Gannon, CNN
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