Bonnie St John
Skier Bonnie St John became the first Black woman to earn a medal in the Winter Games (Olympics or Paralympics) during the 1984 Winter Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria. She won one silver and two bronze medals in Innsbruck in ski racing. St John had proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD) and had to get her leg amputated at the age of five. After the 1984 Paralympics, St John graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and became the Clinton administration director for the National Economic Council. In 2010, St John was a member of former President Barack Obama’s official delegation to the Winter Paralympics
Debra “Debi” Thomas
During the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada, Debi Thomas became the first Black athlete to medal in the Olympics after winning a bronze medal in Women’s figure skating. She was a student at Stanford University at the time. In 1986 Thomas earned gold at the World Championships and the silver the following year. The ABC show “Wide World of Sports” named her the 1986 athlete of the Year. Thomas retired from amateur skating in 1988 and became an orthopedic surgeon.
In 2004, Ralph Green became the first African American man to make Team USA men’s para-alpine skiing. He went on to compete in the 2006, 2010, and 2014 Paralympics. He competed in the slalom and the giant slalom events. Growing up, he was a multi-sport athlete and played quarterback for his high school team. At 16, Green fell victim to a shooting and had his leg amputated. In 2010, Green came in first overall in the U.S. Paralympics Winter Games. He also competed in the International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing World Championships and World Cup Mt Hutt in 2013.
Vonetta Flowers became the first Black Winter Olympic gold medalist when she and teammate Jill Bakken won the inaugural women’s bobsled event in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Flowers was a stand-out track and field athlete, becoming a seven-time NCAA All-American at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She competed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics Trials but failed to make either team. At her husband’s urging, she responded to a flyer that requested track athletes to try out for the U.S. bobsled team. During her rookie season in bobsledding, Flowers became the top brake woman in the United States.