Flowers that Bloom on Ice: Vonetta's Olympic Story
By Julie Blim and Carolyn Castleberry
CBN.com Carolyn Castleberry:
The 700 Club
How did a little girl from Birmingham, AL -- where it hardly ever snows -- end up competing in bobsledding?
Vonetta Flowers: Ask God! Well as a child, I did all sports. I ran track, played basketball, and volleyball but my ultimate goal was to go to the summer Olympics. I tried out in ‘96 and 2000. With those failed attempts, my husband spotted a bobsled flyer, and we decided to give it a chance but just as a joke. Who would have thought that I would be a bobsledder?
Carolyn: You didn’t realize that this was going to be where you would win gold, right?
Vonetta: That wasn’t my intention to make the team. It was just to go out, have fun, go home and tell friends that we tried out for the bobsled team.
Carolyn: About a month before you had been training, you were dropped from the team but you kept training! Tell me about that.
Vonetta: That was a very difficult time. The day after I helped my teammate qualify for the team trials she dropped me for another athlete. It was very difficult because up to that point I thought we were a team, and we were going to go to the Olympics together. But she thought differently, I went home, the team traveled to Europe and started racing. My husband said, “Hey, keep training.” At this point, (I said) “Keep training for what? I’m not going to the Olympics. My career at this point is over.” But he reminded me that God put me in bobsledding for a reason. I started back training and two weeks later I got two phone calls asking me to come back.
Carolyn: Where did God come into the picture?
Vonetta: I only went to church on Easters, Christmas holidays, and I really didn’t start going to church on a regular basis until in college. My husband, Johnny, is a preacher’s kids, and he was in church all the time.
Carolyn: And he’s been a big inspiration to you, hasn’t he?
Vonetta: A huge inspiration. He invited me to his church. We eventually ended up at another church, which we are at today, and we love it.
Carolyn: When did God become personal to you?
Vonetta: Well, after joining my church, just listening to the messages every Sunday, I started receiving the Word and got saved. Once I got saved, sports in general just changed on me. I approached everything differently, and it made me a better person.
Carolyn: Let’s talk about that big moment back in 2002. Jen D. and Jean Racine were no longer a team. You were with Jill Baken, who was new for you. There’d been a little bit of controversy on the team. You guys were the underdogs. Take me back to that moment when you won the gold.
Vonetta: Going to the Olympics, the media never talked to us. They looked at Jean because she was the favorite for the U.S. She was a war champion for past two years. So going into it, we were able to focus. We knew that we had the potential to win the gold medal.
Carolyn: Now what did it feel like to win?
Vonetta: When I won the gold, I felt like I was dreaming. Then to hear the news that I was the first African American male or female to win a gold medal in the winter Olympics -- ever to win -- I’m the first. It was humbling. I was very grateful.
Carolyn [reporting]: Vonetta has much to be grateful for. She and her husband have also realized another goal to have a family -- twins boys who love to watch Mommy train! So now, Vonetta has even more inspiration to win. Yep, she’s going for the gold again in 2006 and this time her boys will be watching.
For any little girl who wants to be just like her, Vonetta says it takes more than just dreaming. It takes perseverance, years of hard work and a commitment to make it through challenges.
Vonetta: My most important message is to believe that God has a plan for each one of us. Find out what that plan is, work very hard until you get it. Just never give up.
Carolyn [reporting]: Never give up, even when you face failure. Vonetta says her story is proof that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Vonetta: I think God has given me this platform because He needs people in every aspect of the world to show His message, to show that He lives through each and every one of us, to spread His message of hope. and to always believe the Bible because it’s so true.
Running on Ice
(New Hope Publishers, 2005)
Vonetta Flowers: Olympic Golden
Girl on Ice
Celebrate Black History Month on CBN.com
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