FCPS student, alumna represent USA at Beijing olympics | Sports

ATs the world’s top athletes traveled to Beijing for the Winter Olympics, FCPS was well-represented among their ranks.

Maame Biney, a graduate of South Lakes High School, and Ilia Malinin, a student at Marshall High School, continued stellar careers in speed skating and figure skating, respectively, to travel with the US Olympics team for a shot at earning a medal on the ice.

Biney, age 22, made her first Olympic appearance at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea when she was still a student at South Lakes. A trailblazer born in Ghana, Biney became the second African-born competitor to represent America at the winter games. In PyeongChang, she also became the youngest skater and first Black woman to represent the short-track speed skating team. She now attends the University of Utah.

In a press release from the FCPS Office of Communications and Community Relations published shortly before the start of this year’s games, South Lakes principal Kimberly Retzer remarked on the community’s excitement to see Biney compete on the world stage once again.

“There was so much excitement as our whole school cheered for Maame on her journey to and at the 2018 Olympics,” Retzer. “Once again, the South Lakes pyramid, where she grew up, can’t wait to cheer her on again in the coming weeks!”

On the short track speed skating team in Beijing, Biney competed alongside teammates Eunice Lee, Corinne Stoddard, Julie Letai, and Kristen Santos. Stoddard, Santos, and Letai advanced to the semifinals but failed to medal.

“I gave it my all on the ice today! I raced like I never have in these races,” Biney wrote on Instagram after the quarterfinals. “Went the fastest I ever have in this distance so I am on top of the world right now.”

Malinin, age 17, the son of former Uzbek Olympic skaters, was selected as the US men’s figure skating team’s first alternate, a decision that stirred some controversy considering how rapidly his star has been rising. Among numerous previous accolades, including first place in junior Grand Prix events, he earned the silver medal in the 2022 US Championship, propelled by a stellar performance including four quadruple jumps.

At the event, he finished just behind Nathan Chen, who cemented his place as one of the best figure skaters in the world by earning gold in Beijing and setting a new record in the men’s short program with a score of 113.97 points.

The third slot on the Olympic team was split between Malinin, Vincent Zhou, who placed third at the US Championship, and Jason Brown, who earned the pewter medal, or fourth place. Both were likely selected over Malinin for the weight of their resumes.

Brown has led a long and distinguished career in figure skating, including as a previous national champion and bronze medalist at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia becoming one of the youngest male Olympic figure skating medalists in the process. Likewise, Zhou represented the US at the 2018 Olympics and is a former World Junior Champion, among other achievements.

Malinin, meanwhile, was handicapped by canceled competitions due to COVID as well as an injury that sidelined him at the 2021 national championship.

In the FCPS press release, Malinin noted the spectrum of a COVID infection loomed large over the event, meaning that, “As an alternate this year, anyone at any time could test positive, so you just have to be ready to go.”

For a moment, it seemed like Malinin would get his chance. Officials announcedFeb. 7 that Zhou tested positive for the virus during a regular screening of athletes. Unfortunately, under the Late Athlete Replacement rules for the Olympics, Zhou had to withdraw too late in the competition for Malinin to take his place.

Team USA went on to earn three medals: a gold from Chen, a silver from the team competition, and a bronze in the ice dance.


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