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FireNews : Maame Biney: Smiling speed skater heads to Beijing stronger than ever after almost quitting #FireNews365


Within two years, she was seriously considering walking away from the ice.

Yet as Beijing prepares to raise the curtain on the 2022 Games on Friday, Biney — equipped with her customary perpetual smile — is arriving at her second Olympics stronger than ever.

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 really wanted to just be done because there were so many things that were not going my way,” Biney told CNN Sport’s Coy Wire in January.

“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.”

Spotlight

Biney admitted struggling to cope with the limelight and pressure that came with her historic Games debut in an interview with the Olympics Channel Podcast last month.

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.”

Members of the US short track speed skating team, including Biney (C) and Julie Letai (R), take part in a training session in Beijing.

‘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.”

Biney presents on the Voices of the Future panel at the espnW Summit held in Caliorfnia on October 2, 2018.
A CNN interview and profile done before her Games debut in 2018 described Biney’s smile as “a toothy, 1,000-watt grin that blooms across most of her lower face,” a manifestation of her “boundless positivity.”

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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