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First black female speedskater Maame Biney smiles because ‘God has blessed me’

Maame Biney reacts after winning women's 500-meter A final race during the U.S. Olympic short track speedskating trials Dec. 16, 2017, in Kearns, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer; caption amended by RNS)

(RNS) — U.S. speedskater Maame Biney, just-turned 18, has a smile that can light up any room, a giggle that has charmed Olympic audiences and a joy that her coaches say has carried her so far in her athletic career at such a young age.

But, Biney explained in her Instagram profile, that smile “doesn’t mean my life is perfect.”

“It means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me with.”

Biney already has made history as the first black woman to qualify for a U.S. Olympic speedskating team.

Her trademark smile faltered for a moment early Tuesday (Feb. 13) when she was eliminated from the quarterfinals in the 500m race, her best event. But she still has the 1500m race ahead later this week and, she said, “I just have to wait four more years to be able to get back into this big stage. I can’t wait.”

Biney was born in Ghana, where her mother and brother still live, and she started skating at age 5 when her dad, Kweku Biney, pointed out a roadside sign for a “learn to skate” event when she first visited him in suburban Washington, D.C. An instructor suggested Biney was too fast for figure skating and should try speedskating instead, according to The Washington Post.

With the Olympics in sight, she moved seven months ago to Salt Lake City, where the U.S. national team trains and where she lives with a host family while finishing her senior year of high school.

Her breakout came in December at the Olympic trials, when she dominated both 500m races — and cheered so hard after her win that she fell down on the ice laughing.

What a weekend!! I’m still in awe that I’m going to the Olympics?!! I want to start off by thanking God. I am so sure that none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for him. If God hadn’t given my dad the strength to wake up, and take me to practice, I wouldn’t be here today. I also want to thank God for giving me the passion to do this??. Daddy. I know that I can be a pain at times and not appreciate what you’ve done for me. I do appreciate you. When I’m older I want to be just like you. Wanting to help people, having an amazing heart, being dedicated, and being the best parent ever. Scratching the surface to any one of those things would already make me a great person. Thank you for letting me push myself, Werid, right? But it worked. And b/c of you, I will keep pushing myself. Hehe I love you Daddy❤ This one is to my host family. Letting me stay with you guys for 6 months have been amazing! You guys have really made me feel like part of your family! Mrs. Melissa, you really have been a mother to me and I will forever love you and keep you close to my heart. Mr. Robert, hehe thank you for those Cafe Rio trips?And Abby. I’m so happy that I’ve been able to become your big sister. Love you guys always and forever? This one goes out to the whole skating community! You guys have made a huge impact on my dad and I. @dominionspeedskating I love you guys tons! We’ve been through so much together. Tears, laughter, and everything in between. I honestly can’t thank everyone who has helped us b/c there’s SOO many people. You guys know who you are?much love? This last one is to my friends (from school) who got that I couldn’t do anything b/c I had a goal. I’m so happy that you guys didn’t abandon me?. I love how you guys tried to understand. It really means a lot to me?. Also, to my church family for praying for me for years!! Without your prayers for safe travels and successful competitions I honestly don’t believe that my dad and I would have made it this far? It’s been an amazing journey and I can’t wait to see what happens!! Hehe I’m super excited to go to PyeongChang, Korea and represent USA with the rest of the team?????!!

A post shared by Maame Afua Biney (@biney.biney) on

Afterward, she posted on Instagram, “I want to start off by thanking God. I am so sure that none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for him. … I also want to thank God for giving me the passion to do this.”

She also thanked her friends, her fellow skaters, her host family, her dad — and God again, for giving her dad the strength to wake up and drive her to practice for years. And she thanked her “church family,” though she didn’t mention to which church or denomination she belongs.

“Without your prayers for safe travels and successful competitions I honestly don’t believe that my dad and I would have made it this far,” she wrote.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

45 Comments

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  • I look at things such as this and understand why there is such a racial divide in the US. Who cares what colour God made her?

  • Elect the first white US President that is of Jewish, Spanish, Danish, Finish, Polish, Swedish, French, Italian, Greek, Russian heritage and see if ethnic or racial pride does not show its face.

  • I think it’s great that she has achieved so much and wish her all success in the future – but

    Wouldn’t it be better if she were to accept her success as the consequence of her natural abilities, her hard work and a measure of good fortune without diluting it with irrational superstitious belief?

    Isn’t this just another example of religion sucking the self-esteem out of its adherents – a process which stifles people’s humanity when it debases personal value through the you-are-wicked-and-worthless-because-of-a-non-event-in-a-fictional-garden story (and the attendant costly solution) that has been peddled for circa two thousand years?

  • So you feel it is justified? I would say that is probably a big factor in why the US is so racially divided. Everything they do is divided into race and they wonder why they have a problem.

  • When god is elsewhere doing miracles and healing or busy causing disasters and creating new cancers, or helping the competing team instead of yours, you know you can always rely on your insurer for help. Even the threesome of god can’t be everywhere at once, and its a super-tough job staying ahead of vaccines and creating enough new diseases.

    So, when god can’t be there to deliver help when you need it, call your local insurance agent. There for you when you need them, and more reliable than god.

  • Are you proposing that we eliminate racial pride, ethnic pride, etc? Both Hilary and Donald are white anglo-saxons, but she could have been the first “female” President, and everyone acknowledges this. Would that cause a gender problem?

    Obama was half African and half Anglo-Saxon. Did any of that go unnoticed by the world media? “First black US President” was printed in every language in the foreign press. That did not cause a problem, and he was re-elected in almost every demographic and re-elected in the electoral college as well, and left with a 58% approval rating.

    The highest approval rating for President Trump so far is a recent Fox News poll at 40%. Race is not the issue. Racism is often the issue.

  • ““It means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me with.””

    “She also thanked her friends, her fellow skaters, her host family, her dad — and God again,”

    “Without your prayers for safe travels and successful competitions I honestly don’t believe that my dad and I would have made it this far,”

    But you knew that didn’t you.

  • That’s not how it works and the US is not the only nation that creates ethnic and caste systems.

  • It shouldn’t matter but it does and always will.
    It’s in the DNA of homo sapiens to notice physiological differences. Society and all its man made constructs determines how well or poorly these differences are tolerated.

  • I see more and more of it in Canada also. I didn’t see a lot of it growing up, but my husband recently pointed out to me that Canada tends to do that a lot with Quebec. His brother has a saying……”When I lived in Canada, I needed to talk to a person before I could hate him, in the US, all I have to do is look at them.”

  • “Isn’t this just another example of religion sucking the self-esteem out of its adherents…”

    Nothing in the article (zero, zip, nada) indicates that Ms Binney is lacking in self-esteem, much less that her sense of self-worth has been “sucked out” of her. So, no – your rant is “just another example” of anti-religious bigotry — simply so much static in the background of an otherwise inspiring story.

  • “Are you proposing that we eliminate racial pride, ethnic pride, etc?”

    Racial and ethnic “pride” can only be indulged without divisive, destructive consequences if it is submerged in and superseded by a vigorous sense of national identity (the legendary “melting pot”).

    That is not the situation we are facing today. “Identity Politics” as it is currently practiced is (among other things) a ploy by the political establishment to keep their subjects under control – when the various groups that make up society can be kept busy fighting and being suspicious of one another, they are less likely to join forces against the establishment that’s controlling and exploiting them all.

  • If you need to credit an invisible, insubstantial, unsubstantiated and unnecessary concept with your success you have been misled into having an impoverished view of your own worth as a human being.

    Religion(s) thrives on demeaning the individual and gaining power through offering the false hope of unnecessary future betterment in return for uncritical devotion (and money).

  • I recall black comedienne Wanda Sykes reminded people that Obama was as much white as black.

    She said something like…”if Obama screws up ….black people will say ‘Who the hell elected this WHITE man anyway'”

    I thought that was cute.

  • I’m supposed to be proud of how my skin pigmentation is arranged? Should I be more proud or less proud if I get a tan?

  • It’s sad too because….from an actual biological standpoint..there is no race. Race is an artificial construct.

    I’m part German, part Irish and part Cherokee..what race am I ?

  • Your ”talking points” sound pretty good. The problem is, NONE of them apply to Ms Binney – or to any believer that I personally know. Do you personally know any? Apparently not.

  • I must not. It’s probably my fault. Can you expand or say it in a different way (as I often say: Talk to me like I’m 5!” 🙂

  • Been there, got the T-shirt and the scars. My father was an Anglican priest (he preferred minister), my mother believed the world was made in six consecutive periods of 24 hours (Dad didn’t). I’ve a sister who is an ex-nun and another who is a happy-clappy.

    Your ignorance is irrelevant.

  • If you mean that she can both take full credit for her achievements and attribute them to some imaginary deity – no she can’t – it is either/or.

  • Well, in the first place, it was not an endorsement of any concept of racial or ethnic “identity.” Rather, the point was to emphasize that any political exaltation of “identity” (however defined) is necessarily destructive to social tranquility UNLESS it is explicitly subordinated to a sense of national, civic identity.

    But that ain’t happening, so what we’re left with is a situation in which the various ‘”identity groups” contend with one another for political spoils instead of cooperating with one another to jointly contend against the Establishment that’s ripping them all off. It’s the perfect illustration of the strategy known as “divide and conquer” – and the “identity politicians” are all eagerly promoting the divisions that keep them in power and their people in subjection to the Establishment’s agenda.

  • What I like is the portraits of the varieties of understanding of what a relationship with God means to individuals who are elite athlete as RNS has covered to date. Their stories are all different and to some extent, that shapes or reflects their understanding of who and what and how they define their relationship with God .

    While I don’t agree with all that Give said, I believe he speaks from an understanding shared by many none’s, and some Christians to boot who are apprehensive about a theology that seems to include an understanding of God as also being a sacred Santa’ .

  • Oh sure, I knew that.

    I also know that, given the skater’s quotations there, your specific replies of “irrationality” and superstitious belief” are based on a very specific factual claim that you (and your fellow atheists), have proven to be utterly unable to defend either rationally or scientifically: “There is no God.”

  • Lying for Jesus has a long tradition – but it is not an honourable one and is counter to the Biblical demand that you tell the truth.

    Your childish persistence in refusing to accept that atheism is the absence of belief demonstrates that you are intellectually unable to handle the truth and therefore, presumably to protect any vestigial sanity that remains, pretend to yourself that which you know to be untrue.

  • The “Religion” that’s called “Christianity” is not short of of screwballs, of one variety or another, (for one reason or another). I’m sorry you were so intimately involved with so many of them, as it has definitely left you with a skewed view of the faith.

    As long as the intensity of your personal experience closes off alternative viewpoints, there is very little in the way of rational articulation that will alter that outlook. What I can say at this point is to give a piece of rhetorical advice: your extreme complaints about Christianity (“sucking the self-esteem out of its adherents…stifles people’s humanity…debases personal value”) simply do not apply to me or any of the believers I associate with – and they manifestly don’t apply to Ms Binney. Your critique of what you call “Christianity” is going miles wide of its intended target.

  • I agree with you. Unfortunately, there are a lot of deficient theologies floating around within easy reach of anyone who wants to use their religion to promote an agenda, whether personal or otherwise, whether consciously or unconsciously. All of these “theologies” make me apprehensive because they eventually produce behavior that brings discredit on the Christian faith in one way or another.

    Given all that he’s been exposed to, GTDAB has reasons of his own for apprehension that are undoubtedly real and personal. But I’m afraid his “apprehension” has congealed into single-minded “opposition” that can no longer distinguish between genuine Christian belief and its numerous counterfeits and ripoffs

  • There is no rational basis for belief in god(s).

    The manifestation of religious irrationality varies in degree.

    I wouldn’t expect any believer to realise, at the time, the damage, minor or major, that their belief inflicts upon them and those they love.

  • “There is no rational basis for belief in god(s).”

    Well, a number of highly rational people (Nobel Prize-winning scientists, in fact) have been convinced believers, and have not been hesitant to declare themselves as such:

    “It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. I find a need for God in the universe and in my own life.” — Arthur L. Schawlow, winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize in physics

    “I think only an idiot can be an atheist. We must admit that there exists an incomprehensible power or force with limitless foresight and knowledge that started the whole universe going in the first place.” — Christian B. Anfinsen, 1972 winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry

    “There is no incompatibility between science and religion. Both are seeking the same truth. Science shows that God exists.” — D.H.R. Barton, 1969 winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry

    “If I consider reality as I experience it, the primary experience I have is of my own existence as a unique self-conscious being which I believe is God-created.” — Sir John Eccles, 1963 Nobel Prize winner in physiology and medicine

    “I believe in the concept of God and in His existence.” — Charles H. Townes, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1964

    [from Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Henry Margenau and Roy A. Varghese editors]

    Your imperious naturalism is outflanked by people who are not only smarter than either of us, but who actually know what they are talking about.

  • “There is no rational basis for belief in god(s).”

    Well, there are a lot of highly rational people ((Nobel Prize-winners in science, actually) who are believers, and are not hesitant to declare themselves as such:

    “I believe in the concept of God and in His existence.” — Charles H. Townes, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1964

    “I think no one can be an atheist. We must admit that there exists an incomprehensible power or force with limitless foresight and knowledge that started the whole universe going in the first place.” — Christian B. Anfinsen, 1972 winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry

    “It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. I find a need for God in the universe and in my own life.” — Arthur L. Schawlow, winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize in physics

    “If I consider reality as I experience it, the primary experience I have is of my own existence as a unique self-conscious being which I believe is God-created.” — Sir John Eccles, 1963 Nobel Prize winner in physiology and medicine

    “There is no incompatibility between science and religion. Both are seeking the same truth. Science shows that God exists.” — D.H.R. Barton, 1969 winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry

    [from Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Henry Margenau and Roy A. Varghese editors]

    Your imperious materialism is outflanked by people who are smarter than either of us — and who actually know what they’re talking about.

  • Picking a few opinions does not constitute an argument.

    Gullibility is not related to IQ – many clever people hold silly ideas – 2x Laureate Linus Pauling “is largely responsible for the widespread misbelief that high doses of vitamin C are effective against colds and other illnesses.”

    Amongst the opinions you quote there is not one fact that supports the speakers’ preferences – not one.

    Most scientists are practical atheists – as in
    ” “My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.” population geneticist J. B. S. Haldane ”
    and this is nothing new
    ““There are, in fact, two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance””
    Hippocrates of Cos

  • “Amongst the opinions you quote there is not one fact that supports the speakers’ preferences – not one.”

    Or, perhaps, they are in touch with something you’re not. The long-standing and near-universal testimony of the human race is that there’s more to Reality than meets the eye. Materialism is insufficient to explain the Reality we experience.

  • “Or, perhaps, they are in touch with something you’re not.”
    I’m sure they thought they were – but without evidence or rational need the likelihood is that it existed only in their minds (and the minds of those who planted the idea in the first place).

    “Materialism is insufficient to explain the Reality we experience.” Not having an explanation for everything is
    a) inevitable – there’s just too much for one brain and
    b) not a valid reason for inventing a supernatural being. Not knowing why our fingernails grow at three times the rate of our toenails is not an argument for any deity – let alone any specific one.

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