Reston’s Maame Biney reflects on her Olympic journey

 

Maame Biney poses for a portrait in Ogden, Utah on Oct. 2, 2021. (Robert Snow / Red Bull Content Pool)

Maame Biney, the 21-year-old Restonian who became the first Black woman to land a spot on a U.S. Olympic speedskating team, is bringing her local Northern Virginia flair along with her on her Olympic journey.

For the last year and a half, she’s been training in Utah, where she earned a spot this month to compete in the upcoming 2022 Olympics. But despite not being face-to-face with people back in Fairfax County, she told Reston Now that she still has pieces of home with her, such as when grade school teachers Mrs. Bentley and Damon reach out to her.

“That’s super nice to know they’re out there supporting me and wanting the best for me beyond the role of a student, but as a skater and human being,” Biney said in an email.

Biney’s record-breaking history includes competing in the 2018 Olympics, and after three days of competition ending Dec. 19 at U.S. qualifiers in Utah, she secured her return to the Games next year in China.

She and four other female skaters, including Kristen Santos, made the short track team. Biney is the only returning Olympian on the squad.

“What was going through my head during qualifiers, was just to chill,” she wrote.

The athletes made the team based on their overall performance in six races (two 1,500-meter races, two 1,000-meter races and two 500-meter races).

Biney’s iconic smile came out as she skated off the rink following her win in the 500-meter final, quickly taking the lead from a third position on the starting line.

“I was mainly focused on my breathing and trying to be calm throughout the very big storm,” she said by email. “I really wanted to make my second Olympic team, but I can’t be too hard on myself. Then during the 500 I proved to myself I still got it, and I’m still the 500 queen!”

Overcome with emotion and talking amid tears, she talked about her family, friends and God

“This is for them,” she told NBC Sports while eventually breaking out smiles again.

Biney moved to the U.S. from Ghana at age 5 and began speed skating at the age of six.

While still a high school student at South Lakes, she made her Olympic debut in South Korea at age 18.

In high school, she also won bronze and gold medals at the world junior championships in 2017 and 2018 and defended her title as a University of Utah student in 2019 — when she also set a junior world record.

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