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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, May 24, 2024


Feb. 7, 2002 – Dinah Browne, the first black woman ever to compete in the luge event in the Winter Olympic Games, will carry the Virgin Islands flag when the territorial Olympic team takes part in the opening ceremonies Friday.
Browne, a native of St. Croix, is competing in her first Winter Games. She is one of eight athletes representing the Virgin Islands at Salt Lake City.
She took up the luge in 1999 and later qualified for the Olympic Games by successfully competing on the World Cup luge circuit in Europe and North America.
"What she has done is a real breakthrough. It's the big story," said Larry Heikkila, the chief of mission at the Winter Games for the V.I. Olympic Committee.
Anne Abernathy, 48, of St. Thomas will also compete in the women's luge competition. This is the fifth Olympics for Abernathy, nicknamed "Grandma Luge." She is the oldest woman competing in this year's games, she said.
"The thrill of being here, each time it is just as intense," she said.
Abernathy fought back from a luge accident last year that knocked her unconscious for 20 minutes and caused brain damage that had her in therapy for more than three months, she said. "I couldn't even walk a straight line," she said. "Nobody thought I'd ever come back."
She also has endured knee surgery nine times since 1985, when she took up the sport that sends her hurtling down the icy luge track at speeds up to 90 mph.
The other six athletes representing the Virgin Islands are male.
Christian Brown, Paul Zar, Michael Savitch and pilot Keith Sudziarski constitute the territory's four-man bobsled team. And Quinn Wheeler and pilot Zachary Zoller make up the islands' two-man bobsled team.
The Virgin Islands has been taking part in Winter Olympics Games since 1988. Like Puerto Rico, the territory fields a separate Olympic team from that of the United States.
The team has gotten some training money from the International Olympic Committee, along with sponsorships from AOL, Coors Light beer and others. But the athletes raise their own money to pay for much of their training, and it can be very expensive to keep competing in the sports they love, Abernathy said.
The thin-blooded Virgin Islanders will be well-bundled up against the cold for the opening ceremonies Friday night in Salt Lake City, where the temperatures have dropped down in the teens, Heikkila said Thursday.
"Everyone else has been complaining about how cold it is, so you can imagine how our team feels," he said with a laugh.
The word around the Olympic Village is that the ice on the bobsled and luge track — said to be the fastest in the world — is in great shape, Heikkila said.
The women's luge competition is set for Feb. 12 and 13. The two-man bobsled races will be Feb. 16 and 17, and the four-man bobsled team will race Feb. 22 and 23.

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