Vonetta Flowers Interview
Vonetta Flowers races a 450 pound sled down an icy track at 90 miles per hour. At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the speedy bobsled racer made history by becoming the first black athlete to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. She talked to Kidzworld about her need for speed, how she trains for a race and her chances of winning a gold medal again in 2006!
Simon: You're from Alabama, which isn't exactly a center for winter sports. How did you get started in bobsled racing?
Vonetta Flowers: I had always dreamed of competing in the Olympics in track and field. After I missed out on qualifying for the 2000 Olympics in the long jump and 100 meter dash, my husband spotted a flyer looking for people to tryout in bobsled for the 2002 Olympic Team. I didn't really know a thing about bobsled, except from the movie Cool Runnings, but I tried out for the team and I made it. The next thing I knew I was travelling around the world with the bobsled team and off to the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Simon: What was it like to win a gold medal?
Vonetta Flowers: It was such a thrill and just a dream come true. Ever since I was nine and learned the national anthem, I'd thought about hearing it played after I won a gold. I just never thought it would be in a sport like bobsledding. I felt so thankful and great to be on the podium with the USA written on my jacket.
Simon: How do you train for bobsled racing?
Vonetta Flowers: I'm the pusher, so my job is to get the sled going at the beginning of the race. Speed and power are the most important things. When I first started I had good speed from my background in track and field, but I really needed to work on my strength because a bobsled is 450 pounds. So I worked a lot lifting weights and doing squats. You need to be strong to push the sled and have speed to jump in the sled once it's going.
Simon: What do you like most about bobsled racing?
Vonetta Flowers: Racing is just such a great adrenaline rush. I love the competition, I love the speed and it's fun to travel around the world to compete.
Simon: Do you feel any pressure going into the 2006 Winter Olympics as the defending gold medalist?
Vonetta Flowers: I'm very excited. I feel faster and stronger and I have a new driver, Jean Prahm, who I'm excited to being going to the Olympics with. There's usually more pressure on the driver in bobsled but it's a team sport. If I'm healthy and keep going in the right direction, anything can happen. I'm just going to go over and do the best I can.
Simon: How can a kid like me start bobsled racing?
Vonetta Flowers: Well unfortunately, you have to wait until you're out of high school to start bobsled racing, because of age requirements. But racers come from all backgrounds. Track and field really helped me, while other racers have been football players or come from other sports. But speed and strength are really important.
Vonetta Flowers - Fast Facts