She hasn’t even graduated from high school yet, but later this month Maame Biney will become the first African-American woman to race for the U.S. Olympic speedskating team. Biney, 18, is the first black woman to even qualify for a U.S. speedskating Olympic team, and viral video of the bubbly young star giving an interview shortly after her qualification has already endeared her to many. Asked what it was like to reach the Olympics following her sweep of the 500-meter short track races during Olympic trials in December, an ecstatic Biney had to speak between giggles of joy.
“It’s crazy awesome,” she said. “I’ve dreamt about this moment … I am just so happy right now.”
Biney was born in Ghana, but came to Maryland to visit her father, Kweku when she was 5 years old. Speaking to The Washington Post, Kweku said that when it was time for her to return, she insisted that she wanted to stay in the U.S. After consulting with the rest of the family, he said, they decided to honor her request. Biney’s mother, Gina runs a salon in Ghana.
It wasn’t long after Biney arrived in the U.S. that she expressed an interest in skating. She started off figure skating, but her already blazing speed led the coach to ask Kweku if he’d considered letting her try speedskating. Soon after, Biney’s talent for the sport was attracting even greater attention.
When the the PyeongChang Winter Olympics begins on February 9th, Biney and the rest of the speedskating team, which also features long-track skater Erin Jackson, who became the second African-American woman to make the U.S. speedskating team just a few weeks after Biney, will take on a powerful South Korean squad that features star Choi Min-Jeong — a favorite in the 500-meter, 1000-meter, and the 1,500-meter events.
“Being the first African-American girl on this Olympic Team is really awesome because that means that young African-American girls, or any other race for that matter, could go out there, find an ice rink, and just try it out,” Biney told CNN. “You never know, you could be the next Olympian.”
Watch video of Biney in action below.
Read the full story at TIME magazine.