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Maame Biney: At the Speed of History

Last Updated: February 7, 2022
The first Black woman to represent Team USA in speed skating looks to continue her groundbreaking Olympic journey with a short track medal in Beijing.

If you could invest in any US Olympian, the athlete with perhaps the biggest opportunity to become a superstar household name this month is short track speedskater Maame Biney. 

The 22-year-old is making her second appearance at the Winter Games after a historic debut in 2018 at Pyeonchang, where she became the first Black woman and youngest skater overall to compete for Team USA in speed skating.

Although she didn’t medal in Pyeongchang, her bubbly laugh, beaming smile, and infectious energy made her a fan (and media) favorite. Four years later, Biney is faster, stronger, and more mentally prepared for the global platform, now with a medal on her mind. 

Who is Maame Biney?

  • Instagram followers: 7,275
  • Twitter followers: 28.1K
  • Key endorsements: Delta, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Raising Cane’s, Red Bull, SKIMS, Tempo 
  • Top Achievements: World Junior Championship in the 500 meters, US National titles in the 500m, 1,000m, and 1,500m

Biney’s journey to the Olympic stage has big-screen potential. She was born in Ghana and immigrated to the Washington, DC area at the age of five, taking up figure skating to connect with her new community. After a year on the ice, Biney’s coach thought she was “too fast” and suggested she try speed skating instead.

Growing up combining her new sport with taekwondo competition, Biney harnessed her athleticism, flexibility, power, and speed to set herself apart on the ice and quickly dominate the junior skating scene.

But as with most sports, the mental aspect of speed skating is something not discussed as much as the physical grind. After her historic Olympic debut, Biney actually considered hanging up her skates at just 18 years of age as both the physical and emotional toll of competition and injury recovery were catching up to her. The spotlight and pressure of Pyeongchang took a toll on her now-famous smile.

“I didn’t know how to deal with it and I didn’t have that the resources at that time to really maneuver what I was feeling,” Biney shared with Olympics.com, “At that point, it was just very much, ‘Oh, she only smiles , she’s so happy all the time, and very energetic,’ which I am, but I also have this side of me where I just wanted to go home and sleep and not do anything and just stay in my bed all day.”

After the Games, a renewed priority and focus on her mental health and happiness — through meditation, sleep, therapy, and harnessing her aggressive and confident on-ice alter ego, “Anna Digger”– allowed her to do what she does best: have fun and skate fast. 

Continuing her studies as a psychology major at the University of Utah, Biney became the first US woman to win a World Junior Championship in the 500, and in 2021, earned US National titles in the 500, 1,000, and 1,500 meters, claiming the women’s overall championship and building serious momentum ahead of Beijing.

With her on-ice success and personality now on full display to the world, major brands wanted to be a part of her journey. Partnerships with the likes of Red Bull, Delta, and Tempo, among many others continued to build her portfolio but perhaps the most impactful campaign was starring in Team USA’s official loungewear line launch with Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS brand, gracing the mogul’s Instagram account (and its 284 million followers).

But as she dominated the Trials and got closer to returning to the Olympics, Biney had a clear focus on making more history this time around, earning the U.S. women’s team their first short track medal since 2010.

Biney began her race to the podium in short track speedskating this weekend. The three medal finals she’s in the hunt for are as follows:

  • 500m final: Monday, Feb. 7 @ 6:30 a.m. ET
  • 1000m final: Friday, Feb. 11 @ 6 a.m ET
  • 1500m final: Wednesday, Feb. 16, time TBD
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