National Brotherhood of Skiers aims for historic Olympic breakthrough

National Brotherhood of Skiers
National Brotherhood of Skiers
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At the Winter Olympics, Black athletes earned medals in bobsled, figure skating and speed skating for the U.S. But a Black skier has never competed on a U.S. Olympic team.

Henri Rivers, President of the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS), hopes a new union with U.S. Ski and Snowboard (USSA) produces a breakthrough.

“I would like to see more accomplished athletes in the pipeline getting the support that they need, whether it’s attending academies, specific training camps, specialized coaching,” Rivers said by phone on Friday. “I want to see those types of things instituted so our athletes can get up to par. They can get on an equitable footing.”

Earlier this week, USSA and NBS announced a four-year partnership to increase participation of minorities in elite skiing and snowboarding. USSA will provide training opportunities to NBS athletes, plus access to resources for minority athletes who experienced economic barriers to participating in winter sports.

“I regret we have not done so sooner, as our missions are aligned in making the U.S. best in the world at Olympic skiing and snowboarding,” USSA President and CEO Tiger Shaw said in a press release. “We cannot truly be the best until we are more inclusive and accessible to all.”

USSA records show that three Black athletes have made the U.S. Ski Team at the development level. Black skiers have competed for the U.S. at the Paralympics, including Bonnie St. John in 1984 (three medals) and Ralph Green in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

NBS was founded in 1973 to promote winter sports among minorities and develop elite minority athletes in those sports. It now has over 50 clubs from 43 cities with 3,500 members.

“I would like to see more accomplished athletes in the pipeline getting the support that they need, whether it’s attending academies, specific training camps, specialized coaching,” said Rivers, a professional ski instructor who has been involved with NBS since 1996. “I want to see those types of things instituted so our athletes can get up to par.”

The first NBS summit nearly five decades ago was attended by over 350 skiers. Today, the annual summit brings in more than 5,000 people and helps fundraise to support its Olympic Scholarship Fund, which supports athletes of color who excel in winter sports. USSA is the title sponsor of this year’s summit, which is virtual and began on Friday.

Rivers said funding is the single biggest obstacle to Black skiers getting on equitable footing.

“If you’re going to be a national champion or an international competitor, you have to be on snow six days a week,” he said. “You can’t do it by a weekend program. There’s no way.”

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