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Vonetta Flowers (born Vonetta Jeffery on October 29, 1973 in Helena, Alabama) is an American bobsledder and athlete. Flowers was a star sprinter and long jumper at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and originally aspired to make the U.S. Summer Olympic Team. After several failed attempts, Flowers turned to bobsledding, and found success as a brakewoman almost immediately. At the 2002 Winter Olympics, she, along with driver Jill Bakken, won the gold medal in the two-woman event, becoming the first black person to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics. After the Salt Lake City Games, Flowers gave birth to twins and took some time off from the sport. In 2003, she returned to competition with new driver Jean Prahm. Flowers and Prahm competed in the 2006 Winter Olumpics in Turin, finishing sixth.
Flowers also won the two-woman event at the 2004 FIBT World Championships in Konigssee. She retired from competition after the 2006 Winter Olympics.
In December 2010, she was elected to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. She was to be inducted as a member of the Class of 2011 in May.
The current U.S. women’s bobsled team diversity reflects her legacy.
“It’s pretty cool we’re talking about how diverse the team is,” 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Elana Meyers said recently while training at the test event for the 2014 Games outside Sochi. “We all started from Flowers. That’s when most women started hearing about it, from Vonetta, with all the hype centered around her incredible accomplishment. Starting out there and following in her footsteps is pretty cool.”
The 2012-13 World Cup team has seven black athletes: drivers Meyers and Jazmine Fenlator, plus brakemen Tianna Madison Bartoletta (a London 2012 gold medalist in the 4×100), Lolo Jones (a two-time Olympic hurdler), Aja Evans, Cherrelle Garrett and Maureen Ajoku. There are also two African-Americans on the men’s bobsled team.