USA’s Biney advances in short-track 500 meters

 

USA’s Biney advances in short-track 500 meters

a person riding a snowboard down a snow covered slope: Maame Biney of the USA advances to the quarterifinals in the short-track 500 meters.

© James Lang, USA TODAY Sports Maame Biney of the USA advances to the quarterifinals in the short-track 500 meters.GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Maame Biney might have the biggest, brightest smile at the Winter Olympics, but in the heat of battle her glare is icy enough to cause extra chills at this frigidly cold Games.

The American short-track speedskater, 18, advanced out of the first round of the 500 meters at Gangneung Ice Arena on Saturday night, and she lit up when talking about her first Olympic experience.

If television fans are drawn to Biney’s innocent charm as broadcaster NBC continues to highlight her backstory — she emigrated from Ghana at age 4 and is the first African-American woman to qualify for a the U.S. Olympic speedskating team — they should know it is not an act.

“I don’t know why I smile so much,” Biney told USA TODAY Sports in a recent interview. “I guess it’s always been my thing. Whenever I am sad I always go make myself smile again. I don’t like feeling sad. It’s not a fun feeling.”

Biney had to battle to advance to Tuesday’s quarterfinals. She finished second in her heat behind China’s Fan Kexin but critically held off South Korea’s Kim Alang. She promised that after playing defense in her first Olympic race, it would be all-out attack from here on.

And the smile will be gone.

“Whenever I look at the pictures of me skating I always look at my eyes and it looks as if I am about to kill someone,” Biney said. “I don’t know how to do that off the ice. If I tried to do that right now I’d burst out laughing, It’s like (having) two personalities.”

Biney has a nasty alter ego for herself that she channels in competition. She calls her creation Anna Digger, and she even has an email address in Anna’s honor. And it will be Anna, not Maame, competing Tuesday, only to be replaced by the real thing as soon as the finish line is crossed.

If Biney gets it together her raw speed could make her a medal contender. Perhaps her biggest strength is her fearlessness, which comes from a lack of international experience and a lovable naivete. Until she turned 18 just more than a week ago, her father Kweku didn’t allow her to have her own phone and she has been treating each new Olympic experience with delight.

“I’m always happy,” she said, with one more beaming smile. “But winning makes me happiest of all.”

USA TODAY SPORTS