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For Black History Month, espnW celebrates the first-generation-African-American athlete experience and the diversity of the African diaspora.
I've never really tried all those other sports. Yeah, I did soccer for like two months but was always drawn to skating.
The fact that I can go super fast and feel the wind on my face when it's a really hot summer day -- I would look forward to going to skating just so I could feel that wind.
When I started as a little kid, my dad, Kweku, was the only person who could provide for me. It's not like I could provide for myself. Having that support and him paying the money monthly for me to keep skating -- like the skates and the travel and all that stuff -- I'm so grateful for that.
My father wanted to get away from Ghana to have a better life here in America, and he also allowed me to stay here instead of forcing me to go back to Ghana.
I'm so happy that he even thought of me like that. I mean, I know as a parent you're supposed to think of your kids first and stuff, but, like, that's just a huge jump from just taking care of yourself and then having to take care of a kid [on another continent].
My mom, she's always stayed in Ghana. She doesn't really enjoy America because of the cold. I'm like, "well, you can come in the summertime," but she's like, "nah." She likes the heat. Ugh, and I hate the heat, so it doesn't work.
My mom, she sees what I'm doing and knows -- but, she doesn't fully understand. I think the first time we ever really said anything about [skating] was probably in 2012 or something. But my dad was with me for the whole process, and he was very supportive of what I was doing. Whether that would be skating or if two months later I wanted to stop skating and do dance, or if I wanted to do soccer -- something like that. He was very supportive of what I wanted to do and he just went with the flow of everything.
If it wasn't for my dad, and the support that he gave me, I really would not be here.
He wasn't able to come to any of my competitions [recently], except for the junior trials, which made me sad because he usually comes. In the 13 years that I've skated, he's never really missed a competition. Actually, he only missed one because we didn't have money at that time.
Before the [2018 Pyeongchang] Olympics, he never missed any competition and I was so used to seeing him in the stands. Or like I'm on the ice and he's there calling out my name, and I always look out for him because I know that gives me some sort of happiness. He's experiencing this with me.
He's not going to be here for the juniors or the next World Cup or World Champs. It's OK, though. I can't be dependent on my dad all the time. Most of the time I'm too caught up and exploring the world to think about that. I'm free! I get to explore the world with my friends.
For the past week. he's been asking like, "Are you ready for Junior Worlds in [March]?" Because he knows that I've taken a pretty big break and I'm like, 'He wants me to do well, but he doesn't want me to be disappointed in myself.'
He's always looking out for me.
Maame Biney, the first black woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic speedskating team, migrated from Ghana to Northern Virginia when she was 5 years old with her father, Kweku Biney. Maame, 19, thanks her father for helping her actualize her American dream.
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