Vonetta Flowers to headline Dr. Wilson Fallin Jr.’s second series of lectures at the University of Montevallo

The University of Montevallo will feature Vonetta Flowers, the first black woman in history to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics, as a guest speaker in its second series of lectures by Dr. Wilson Fallin Jr..

The talk will take place on October 13 at 4:30 p.m. on the Rebecca J. Luker Stage of the DiscoverShelby Theater in the UM Center for the Arts. Conference tickets are free but will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. They can be secured at: https://montevallotickets.universitytickets.com/.

At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Flowers won a gold medal in bobsleigh with teammate Jill Bakken.

Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers celebrate their victory after the first run of the two-man bobsled at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. They went on to win the gold medal. (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Hailing from Birmingham, Flowers was unaccustomed to the ice, let alone bobsledding, a cold climate sport. She was a sprinter and long jumper — a track star — who became a seven-time All-American in sports while attending UAB on a track scholarship and as a first-generation college student. .

Although she dreamed of representing the United States in athletics at the Olympics, many injuries took their toll and she did not make the 1996 or 2000 Olympic teams.

But that didn’t end his sporting career or his Olympic aspirations. She retooled and, thanks to the keen eye of some bobsleigh coaches, became a bobsledder by learning to use the leg muscles she’d accumulated as a track star to push a 450-pound sled down an ice-covered track.

At the end of her first season in the sport, she and teammate Bonny Warner ranked second in the United States and third in the world. Confident in her ability to compete with the best in the world, she once again set out to bring home Olympic gold.

She later met Bakken, who was the driver of their two-woman bobsled team, and they shocked the bobsledding world by winning the first US Olympic bobsled medal in 46 years.

Flowers returned to the Olympics in 2003 but did not finish in the top ranking. She returned to the Winter Olympics once again in 2006 in Turin, Italy, with a new partner, Jean Prahm. They finished in sixth place, making her a two-time U.S. Olympian.

She retired from Olympic competition that year.

In 2011, Flowers was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. She was also named one of Essence magazine’s 50 Most Inspiring African American Women, one of Ebony magazine’s 50 Most Intriguing Black People, and one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People.

Her book, “Running on Ice: The Overcoming Faith of Vonetta Flowers”, was published in 2005.

Flowers lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband, Johnny Flowers, and their three sons, Jorden, Jaden and Jaxon.

Angela C. Hale