When people say God gives them strength, it’s usually spiritual or mental strength. Not Maame Biney, though. The giggly speed skater on Team USA thanks God for giving her physical strength — something she has been blessed with in abundance.
Maame, 18, grew up in Ghana, a country where ice sports aren’t common. The average temperature is 85 degrees year-round, so they’re much better suited to summer Olympics sports.
She doesn’t remember much about her life in Ghana. Her family split up and her mother moved back to Ghana when she was pregnant with Maame. Her mother and brother are still there.
When she was 5, Maame’s father invited her to live him in Virginia. Once in the United States, Maame was having second thoughts. She ended up crying in the car, wanting to go back to Africa, but she soon calmed down and quickly embraced life in the United States, according to the Washington Post.
Learning To Skate
Less than a year after she moved to Virginia, as her father was driving her home from school one day, they saw a sign that read, “Learn to skate.” Her father asked her if she wanted to try it since there wasn’t anything like that in Ghana, and she agreed to give figure skating a shot. A few weeks later, she started lessons in a beginner figure skating class.
While she loved the sport and appeared to be a natural, there was one problem. Maame was just too fast for figure skating. So her teacher steered Maame toward a speed skating program.
“These thighs are not meant for figure skaters,” Maame laughs in a video for NBC. “They’re meant for speed skaters!”
Her father had a full-time job in maintenance, but that didn’t stop him from going to every practice — even the 5 a.m. ones.
Fast forward a few years, and Maame is making waves at the 2018 Winter Olympics. She is the first black woman to make the United States Olympic Speed Skating Team, and the world fell in love with her bubbly personality.
Rooted in Faith
Professional athletes must have the mental stamina to keep going in the face of adversity. There will be wins, losses and injuries. For Maame, her stamina comes from her faith in God.
“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,” Maame posted on Instagram before the event.
She also thanks God for not only her strength, but the strength He gave her father to wake up and drive her to all those 5 a.m. practices.
Maame also appears more grounded than most 18-year-olds. She knows the world loves her smile, but she’s sets them straight if anyone starts thinking she has it all.
“The smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect,” Maame wrote on her Instagram profile. “It means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me with.”
While she didn’t make it to the finals — Maame was eliminated in the quarterfinals — she inspired thousands with her infectious laughter, sparkling grin, and beaming personality.