When Black Olympians make history, you nearly always hear about their big wins, however, you rarely hear what they do after; some continue to garner attention, continuing to compete at the highest level, while others opt for a different career path.
Several pioneering Black athletes are involved with the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, whether as a competitor or another role.
Here's what some trailblazing Black Winter Olympians have done since leaving their mark in history.
Debi Thomas caught the world's attention during the 1988 Winter Olympics as a figure skater. She ended up taking home bronze, becoming the first Blac woman to ever earn a medal at the Winter Games at just 20 years old. She also became the first U.S. figure skating champion in 30 years to be enrolled in college when she attended Stanford University during her Olympic run.
Since then, Thomas went on to become an orthopedic surgeon, specializing in hip and knee replacement. Unfortunately, her life has also been wrought with mental health issues, financial struggles, and complicated marital relationships. She even appeared in a 2015 episode of Iyanla: Fix My Life.
Vonetta Flowers became the first Black American to win a gold medal in bobsledding at the 2002 Winter Olympics. She was partnered with Jill Bakken at the time. What made the win even more amazing was that she's only been playing the sport for less than two years. Before bobsledding, she was a successful track and field athlete and was invited to the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics tryouts.
Flowers retired from competing after the 2006 Olympics and has largely remained out of the public eye since then, but she's considered one of Birmingham's favorite daughters. She was also inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in May 2011.
Elana Meyers Taylor
Elana Meyers Taylor is the only woman to represent the United States three times in bobsledding at the Winter Games. This World Champion bobsledder has brought home three medals and continues to participate in numerous athletic competitions across the globe.
Taylor was not only selected to be on the 2022 U.S. Olympic team but she was selected to be a flag-bearer for Team USA at the Opening Ceremony. Unfortunately, another Olympian, Brittany Bowe, had to walk in her place because she tested positive for COVID-19. Despite this, she remained proud of the honor.
"Being voted by my peers as the flag bearer is the biggest honor of my career," she says in a Team USA article.
Chicago native Shani Davis broke barriers when he became the first Black American to earn a gold medal in an individual event at the 2006 Winter Games. The Olympian also set nine world records throughout his athletic career. As one of the most decorated long track speedskaters, he was featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History, as well.
Davis, wracking up four medals from his Olympic run, announced his retirement in November 2019. Since then, he has served as a coach to Chinese athletes in preparation for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, according to NBC Sports.
Jordan Greenway was the first Black American player to represent the U.S. Hockey Team at the Olympics in 2018. Before and after his Olympic role, he played in the National Hockey League. His NHL page highlights some impressive achievements early on in his career:
"The second-round pick (No. 50) of the Minnesota Wild in the 2015 NHL Draft won a gold medal for the United States at the 2014 World U-17 Hockey Challenge and 2015 IIHF World Under-18 Championships. He excelled at Boston University and played at the 2017 IIHF World Championship after his sophomore season."
He still plays for the Minnesota Wilds and shoots left.
Erin Jackson's story is truly amazing. After learning how to speed skate for just four months, she qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Jackson went on to become the first Black woman to be on the U.S. long-track team. She also participated in dozens of competitions throughout her life and is a 12-time Inline World Championship Medalist, according to her Team USA profile.
Just a few months ago, the Florida native made history by becoming the first Black American woman to win a World Cup title in speed skating. She will also be competing in the 2022 Winter Olympics on the 500-meter track.