Vonetta Flowers, then Vonetta Jeffries, as a student athlete at UAB.

Twenty years ago, on February 19, 20002, Vonetta Flowers, a Birmingham, Alabama native and alumna of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Education, won gold in the U.S. Women's Olympic bobsled competition in Salt Lake City, Utah. This monumental achievement gave her the honor of being the first Black person and African American to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics. It also earned her the title of being the first person from Alabama and the first woman to win a medal at the Winter Olympics. 

Vonetta Flowers, known as Vonetta Jeffries at that time, became the first person in her family to go to college when she attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham from 1992 to 1997, competing as a track and field athlete. She served as team captain for four years. During her time competing for UAB, Vonetta became one of the most decorated athletes in the program - winning 35 Conference USA titles, voted most valuable player in the conference six times, and UAB's first seven-time All-American. She graduated from the UAB School of Education with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Physical Education Non-Teacher Certification with a minor in Health Education on December 7, 1997. 

Vonetta's story is of perseverance, drive, and inspiration.

After two heartbreaking attempts at qualifying for the 1996 and 2000 summer Olympics, Vonetta was ready to hang up her spikes. However, an unexpected opportunity arose for track athletes to try out for the U.S. bobsled team, and Vonetta decided to try out with the push of her loved ones.

Vonetta Flowers Competing in UAB Track and Field

Even though she knew nothing about the sport and had come to terms with the fact that her dream of being an Olympic athlete was over, she tried one last time. She became the top brakewoman in the two-woman bobsled event with driver Jill Bakken for the U.S. women's bobsled team. She not only paved the way for Black athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics, but she, and the rest of the women competing in the bobsled competition, also paved the way for women to compete in bobsled at the Olympic level. According to olympics.com, women's bobsled didn't become an official sport until the 2002 game in Salt Lake City.

Vonetta serves as an honorary co-chair for the 2022 World Games coming to Birmingham, Alabama, in July 2022. Serving as the co-chair, she will attend multiple events and watch athletes compete for gold in their respective sports as she did twenty years ago. 

To learn more about Vonetta's journey, visit www.vonettaflowers.com.