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Who is Maame Biney?

Maame Biney
USA Today Sports

Who is Maame Biney?

Meet the history-making 17-year-old who became a viral sensation after making the U.S. Olympic short track team

17-year-old Maame Biney (prounounced mah-may bye-nee, like hiney) made the U.S. Olympic short track team for the 2018 Winter Games after sweeping the 500m races at December's Olympic Trials.

Short track beginnings

Biney was born on January 28, 2000 in Accra, Ghana, a country on the western side of Africa. 

She started skating lessons at six years old after moving to Reston, Virigina to live with her father, Kweku.

The father and daughter were driving one day when Kweku saw a "learn to skate this fall" sign on the side of the road. He asked Biney if she was interested, then had to explain to her what ice skating was.

"She didn’t even know what that word [skating] was and I explained it to her. The only thing cold in Ghana is cold beer," he told the AP.

She started with figure skating lessons then switched to speed skating on a coach's recommendation.

Breakout moment

Maame Biney broke through on the world stage at the 2017 World Junior Championships, held last January in Innsbruck, Austria. Biney won a bronze in the 500m, and finished seventh overall.

Olympic experience

The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games will be Biney’s first Olympics.

Major competitions

Biney proved she’s one of the U.S.’ top skaters at the 2017 Short Track World Cup Qualifiers, an August competition that determined which short track skaters would compete at the fall World Cups. Biney won the 500m and finished in the top three in the 1000m and 1500m, earning her the top overall ranking.

Biney made her debut on the World Cup circuit this fall. Her best individual result was fifth in the 500m at the Shanghai World Cup.

Trials highlights

Biney became a viral sensation when she dominated the 500m races at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for short track skating in Dec. 2017. With her explosive start and powerful stride, she won both A Finals to clinch her first Olympic berth, then her exuberant celebrations and giggly interview earned her legions of new fans.

A video of the 500m #2 final was watched over four million times on Facebook.

 
Records held

When she competes in PyeongChang, Biney will become the second African-born athlete to represent the U.S. at the Winter Olympics. The first was biathlete Dan Westover, who was born in Madagascar and competed at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games.

She is also the first African-American woman to make either the U.S. Olympic short track or speed skating team. Shani Davis became the first black man to make the team when he qualified for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics as part of the short track team.

Signature

Biney is known for quickness off the starting line, which is most essential in her signature race, the 500m. Biney told TeamUSA.org that the 500m is her favorite because “It’s short and fast and those are my two favorite things about skating, going really fast in a short race."

Top quotes

"She’s a natural athlete. Most natural athletes have a hard transition to skating because speedskating is so unnatural. It goes against everything you’re taught as an athlete. So for her, she’s learned how to skate and is able to use her natural athletic abilities... In my eyes, I feel she can be one of the top girls in the world. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but she has the potential." - Anthony Barthell, national short track coach, to the AP

"People have been telling me that for forever and I think right now I'm kind of seeing it, but I feel like I have a long ways to go. But thanks Apolo!" - Maame Biney on Apolo Ohno's observation that Biney 'doesn't know how good she is'

Off the ice

Biney moved to Salt Lake City in July 2017 to train with the national short track team. She lives with a host family, who were with Biney's father at Trials to cheer her on.

A high school senior, Biney resisted taking a year off from classes because she wanted to graduate with her friends. She's currently taking classes online and applying to colleges, with hopes of studying chemical engineering in the future.

Social media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bineymaame 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/biney.biney/

Short Track

Learn more about the top U.S. and international short track skaters competing in PyeongChang.

J.R. Celski | Katherine Reutter-Adamek | John-Henry Krueger | Jessica Kooreman | Viktor Ahn | Elise Christie | Charles Hamelin | Shim Suk-Hee | Sjinkie Knegt

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