First Black Pairs Skating Team Takes to the Ice

Friday, February 12, 2010

Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur are preparing to skate their first Olympic match as a team.  They found each other on and are now hoping to win a medal.  They are skating for France this weekend and they will be the first Black pairs skating team to compete in the Olympic games. The team talks about connecting online and on the ice.


Yannick Bonheur and Vanessa James

Comments [6]

Dan from NORCAL

Mike Meyers, you miss the point all together. The fact that they are the first black couple to compete in pairs skating IS a big deal and should be focused on. This gives not only Black children hope, but all people of color hope, knowing that they to can compete at this level and on this stage. Black children need role models just as any other nationality does. This is what gives future hope to everyone. Seeing someone "like you" makes the journey a little easier.

Love and Peace

Mar. 02 2010 03:43 PM
just wondering from Northeast

But, how did they do? I am dying to find out.

Feb. 26 2010 06:15 PM
Alyssa from New York City

I was extremely excited about watching this pairs team in the Olympics, especially after seeing videos of their previous performances online. They are well-matched athletically and remind me a little bit of the former Canadian team Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Isler, especially when Bonheur launches James through the air and she sticks the landing. The air she gets! It's amazing. However, NBC did not show their short program last night and I've been spending the better part of today wondering why.

Feb. 15 2010 06:04 PM
Focus on Ability from New Jersey, USA

To Mike Meyers of The New York Civil Rights Coalition...I can understand your point of view.
Athletes ought to be judged by their abilities and not skin color.

However, consider Vanessa James's statement:
“We want to encourage other people to skate and to be the best in skating, because it is rare to see black skaters on the ice.”

After all the American skating pair of Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, Caucasians, were in 14th place after the short program on Sunday, Feb 14th, 2010 just ahead of James and Bonheur. Denney and Barrett got greater publicity generally at least in American media.

Who gets the most attention in the Olympics?

American athletes get more attention from American media, controversial or injured athletes such as Johnny Weir, Hannah Teter and Lindsay Vonn, medalists, and disasters such as the tragic death of the Georgian luger.

Vanessa James only started skating with Yannick Bonheur in December 2007 after meeting on a online Ice Partner Search engine.
They have some technique to work on and personal styles to merge. Vanessa was born in Canada, holds a British passport and an American residence card and the duo train with Indianapolis coach Sergei Zeitsev.

Remember that the "first" seems to take heat.... This too shall pass.

Just getting to these Olympics as a duo is impressive and they've already made history...give them well as The Takeaway.

Cocky precedes comeuppance...

Alpine skier Bode Miller, two time silver medalist in Salt Lake City, then in Torino failing to medal in any of the five events he entered and registering "Did Not Finish" in three events, then commenting "I got to party and socialize on an Olympic level".

Jeret Peterson, freestyle aerialist, in third place in Torino and needing only a conservative jump to medal, decided to do the most difficult trick in the world at that time and ended up seventh and was also sent home by U.S. Ski Team Officials for conduct unbecoming of an Olympian-engaging in a drunken scuffle with a friend.

"Mistakes are learning opportunities".

Feb. 15 2010 11:28 AM
Michael Meyers from New York, New York

I was appalled by the interview with Vanessa James (who did her best to describe the diversity of her background) and of Yannick Bonheur as your interviewer reduced the two skaters' accomplishments to that of ice skaters who were or should be representatives or role models for people who happen to share their skin color. That kind of racial pigeonholing--reducing skillful human beings to being "icons" or symbols" of or role models for their so-called "race"-- rather than as representatives of their nation (which Olympians do)-- was so racist.

The paternalism of hosts on "The Takeaway" is unbearable and suffocating daily but this morning's attempt to make a story of two skaters being "the first blacks" to pair up in an Olympics competition was just so over-the-top and despicable as an example of race-based thinking.

I am sure that you were proud of your discovery about these skaters' "race" and of your casting them as "representatives" and role models for so many "black kids" in the world--weren't you? Why can't excellence without regard to one's skin color be the basis for all children--youths of any color--to identify? Cannot blacks be impressed an dmodel themselves after excellent skaters of any skin color? Indeed, have you ever done a story about the first two "Asians" or "first" two "Hispanics" to be paired up as an Olympian team?

It is inane what you do in the guise of "programming" and how you routinely typecast and stereotype blacks as people of color different and special from all others, in the guise of bringing attention to your savage discoveries about "blacks," who you haven't yet figured out are human beings who can figure skate and compete as equals, as human beings, as examplars of the best rather than as racial figures. But you, almost always, reduce blacks to a racial cariacature.

Shame on you!

But, of course, paternalism has no bounds; it is, too often, just like racism, shameless and reflexive.

Michael Meyers
New York Civil Rights Coalition

Feb. 12 2010 02:41 PM
Fred from Newton, MA

It should hardly be surprising, despite Celeste Headlee's lead, that few winter olympics athletes are persons of color, or Hispanic, southeast Asian, Polynesian, Arab, etc. The obvious reason is geography.
Beyond that, it is probably due to a couple factors. One is economics; winter sports can be very expensive to pursue, even at the entry level for young kids.
Another reason is exclusionary policies in clubs which train athletes, at least in the past. My family was denied membership in a skating club in suburban Buffalo in the 1960s; we learned later that they already had a token Jewish member and would admit no more.

Feb. 12 2010 10:22 AM

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