Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx spotlight the diverse journeys of Black women in sports—from veteran athletes to rising stars, coaches, executives and more—in the series, Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.
Maame Biney is strong, powerful, confident and focused—not just as a two-time Olympic sprinter, but as a young black woman. It’s been a journey for her to be in the place she is now, a place she now understands she belongs and deserves to be in, but the road has been anything but smooth.
Speedskating was a sport that entered her life by accident. Raised by a single father, Biney’s dad enrolled her in skating to keep his six-year-old daughter busy. Her coach noticed how fast and strong she was and suggested she switch from figure skating to speed skating. She continued skating not with Olympic dreams in mind, but because it became a place where she felt happy and confident.
Biney made a living as a sprinter, a sport that doesn’t get talked about much, especially when it comes to women – that’s when Biney came along. She was a young black woman who was good at what she did. When he qualified for the 2018 Olympics, he had no expectations other than to enjoy it – Biney’s mantra was “I’m just happy to be here”. That quickly changed when she rose to prominence as the first black female Olympic sprinter, something the world had never seen. Biney gave a miserable performance. She was physically fit, but her biggest competition wasn’t the world-class competitors – it was herself. Biney let the pressure affect her moment. It wasn’t just the pressure to perform, but the spotlight that made the 18-year-old reach breaking point with unwanted social media attention and opinions she wasn’t ready to deal with.
“Before the Olympics, I had about 500 followers on Instagram and was living my best life. I loved it, no problems,” says Biney. “Then after the Olympic trials, all of a sudden, I had like 5,000 followers, and it just kept going. I was so stressed, and I remember just falling. I was so young. I was 18 and I don’t really like attention. All these people want me to do well. I got in my head and didn’t skate for myself. There is this expectation to perform and this expectation to represent the Black community and the Black girl community. It became a burden.”
After the 2018 Olympics, things got even tougher for Biney—she considers ’19 the worst year of her life. She was pushed beyond her emotional breaking point not only by the stress of the pending ’22 Olympics, but also by a coach who pushed her beyond her emotional limits. For so long the sport had been her happy place and passion, but she was ready to give it up. She was drowning emotionally and knew she needed to get help.
“I struggled a lot with depression and anxiety, and I wasn’t doing well at skating,” says Biney. “I prayed like I have never prayed in my life in 2019. I remember crying all the time in my room and praying to God and asking, Why is my brain like this?“
Biney’s faith and lots of therapy helped prepare her emotionally for the Beijing Games, giving her the tools to deal with and reduce the noise. She was ready, her mantra for 2022 was “I skate for Maame”. She didn’t win a medal in Beijing, but this time it didn’t matter – she found herself and her place. As she skated around that rink, she showed the world that black women belong.
“I was the only black person in the room. I was very familiar with this. But there’s a reason I’m here. And there’s a reason God put me here, and I’m going to live up to that reason,” says Biney. “I just hope I can do it as well as I can. I encourage other black women to hold onto the belief that they are there for a reason and not be afraid to be the strongest person in the room. We have this stereotype that black women are strong. does not matter. If someone’s trying to scream over you, scream louder.”
Biney is confident her medal will come and is focused as she prepares for the 2026 Olympics. While she has the dream of winning a medal in her heart, it doesn’t come before her emotional well-being. So for now, Biney is creating a balanced life by taking some much-needed time out that includes traveling, eating amazing food around the world, and watching a good rom-com whenever she can. As she grows into a more self-aware woman, Biney hopes to inspire other women to adopt her new mantra for ’26: “I deserve to be here.” As a black athlete who has redefined what strength and power looks like, Maame Biney is here for a reason.
“A strong black woman is someone who can be strong in certain moments, even if she’s sad and depressed and not strong, she accepts that and is willing to ask for help,” says Biney. “He is someone who can love himself for who he is and not care what other people think. They can walk into a room and own the room. Even if she’s the only black woman in the room, just be like, You know what, I’m here for a reason.“
Senita Brooks contributes to Empower Onyxa diverse, multi-channel platform that celebrates the stories and transformative power of sports for Black women and girls.