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00000179-c810-d4c2-a579-fdd2fe840003The 2018 Winter Olympics kick off Feb. 8 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and over a dozen Olympians have ties to Vermont, with many more having trained or gone to school here.In fact, Vermont is tied for sixth among states sending the most Olympic athletes in Team USA this year (Colorado takes first, in case you were curious!)Meet The 2018 Vermont OlympiansTo help you keep track of local athletes as they compete in Pyeongchang, we've gathered their bios by team:Alpine Skiing | Biathlon | Bobsleigh & Luge | Cross-Country Skiing | Freestyle Skiing | Ice Hockey | Snowboard We'll be keeping track of the results every weekday morning on the Sports Report and on VPR's Facebook and Twitter accounts.Vermonter Mikaela Shiffrin at last year's Alpine Skiing World Championships. Her first event in Pyeongchang is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 12.

Gillom: Black Olympians

I recently happened upon a statement by a top Fox News exec that went something like this: In Olympics, let's focus on the winner of the race and not the race of the winner. It was a clever bit of word play, but it actually got me thinking about whether the Olympics really is all about the winner of the race.

For Black people, the fact that we’re present and competing means so much more than simply winning. Most black people never forget that one reason Hitler hosted the 1936 Olympics was to showcase German supremacy and when Jesse Owens won, it was as a Black American man whose mere existence proved an oppressive ideology false.

American history has shown us that to be Black and present at the Olympics is, in itself, a political act - and whether we win or lose, it’s the journey that truly matters. Olympic speed skater Maame Biney offers a current example. Just this week, she was unable to secure the spot needed to advance to the next round of competition, but the narrative that surrounds her is not one of sadness, but of hope. People and many media sites are talking about her journey from Ghana to US Olympic skater at just 18 years old and preparing to see her speed-race again in fours years.

Through the lens of many Black people, the Olympics represents a beautiful juxtaposition, in that it gives us the opportunity to stand in solidarity with the entirety of our nation - while at the same time – to strike down discriminatory stereotypes that misrepresent us and our place within the United States.

Recognizing these historical moments both past and present is essential because it provides a path for Black excellence to be recognized. And that excellence creates a momentum that’s difficult to be measured or quantified. In turn, this personification of Black perseverance and excellence breaks down stereotypes and empowers Black and Brown youth globally. Presence breeds Excellence and Excellence breeds Access that creates a positive feedback loop.

So, instead of viewing the Olympics in a purely competitive way, I’d like to see us recognize its potential as a peacemaking tool that grants us a golden opportunity to say something important to the entire world about unity.

And if we could all do that, just imagine the possibilities.

Happy Black History month, Vermont.


Steffen Gillom is a practitioner of Conflict Resolution, an activist, an educator and an AmeriCorps VISTA service alum. Most recently, the bulk of his activism work is through the NAACP, where he currently serves as the Chair of the organizing Committee for the Windham County, Vermont, area.
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