Catching Up With Maame Biney

by Karen Price

Maame Biney was just 18 years old when she made her Olympic debut in short track speed skating.  

Her big smile, personality and history-making turn as the first Black woman to make a U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Team made her a media sensation. Now 21, she’s preparing for a return to the Games in Beijing this winter. We caught up with her to find out what she’s up to these days, on the ice and off. 

First of all, how was your summer? Did you do anything fun?  

Um, no, not really. Just trained and hung out with friends. It was hot and gross and I don’t like the heat so it wasn’t for me. 

Did you watch much of the Summer Olympics?  

Not really, just because I get nervous. I watched gymnastics, a little bit of swimming and a little bit of track and field. 

Do any of the summer sport athletes in particular inspire you in your own athletic pursuits? 

Obviously Simone Biles and what she did was pretty amazing, taking a stand for her mental health. I thought that was pretty cool. And then — oh! Also, I never skated with him but he was a speed skater, Eddy Alvarez (an infielder on the U.S. baseball team, and one of Team USA’s flag bearers in the Opening Ceremony). I wasn’t able to watch his games, but I heard he did really well and got the Silver Medal in baseball. 

What’s your favorite thing to do with your downtime? 

I just like sitting on the couch and watching TV. I don’t get to do that often so when I do I relish it and enjoy it because that’s the time I get to have my own little me time, you know?  

Are you a binge watcher? 

Oh yeah, 100 percent. Once I start a show, I finish it quickly. 

What are you watching now?  

Right now I’m watching “Workin’ Moms.” It’s funny. I just finished watching “Squid Game.” Then also I’m currently watching “Peaky Blinders.” It’s a show I would have never thought I’d like, but it popped up on my suggestions and it’s really good. I’m on the last season and I’m saving it because we’re going to China in a week and I want to be able to watch it on the plane because I’m going to have a lot of time on my hands.  

Is there a show that everyone else loved that you just didn’t enjoy?  

“Riverdale.” I watched two seasons of that, and it’s not that good. I don’t understand why people like it. I love the actors, but I just think the concept and the show just don’t make any sense to me. 

What’s the one thing you can’t leave the house without?  

My phone. Yeah, that’s basically it.  

Skating obviously takes you all over the world. What’s the coolest place you’ve ever been to? 

Japan and Austria. Austria was just such a cute place, and one I’d probably want to go visit one day on vacation. And then Japan, just the food. It was so good. Holy moly, the sushi there was delicious, the ramen was delicious, everything was so good.  

Where would you like to travel that you’ve never been? 

Australia. But just for a second because I’ve heard there are so many spiders and big horrible things that can kill you. So I want to go, but just stop and listen to people talk because I really like the accent and then be like, OK, bye! 

You’ve talked in the past about your alter ego, Anna Digger. Is Anna still around? 

Yep, yep, she’s still around. She’s here and yeah, she’s ready to go. 

When does she take over? Every time? 

Basically, yeah. 

How did Anna come about? 

I made an alter ego when I was 8 years old called Anna Digger, and one time I told one of my teammates that. She was like, ha ha, you should make that into your other personality kind of thing, if that makes any sense. But I made that name my email when I was 8 because I thought people were going to find me if I did my real name, which is kind of crazy for an 8-year-old to think. I was suspicious of everyone. But yeah, I was talking to a teammate and she made that into a joke. Then I mentioned it one time and yep … it just kind of took off.  

Clearly it’s a big year coming up. When you envision these next four or five months, what do you see?  

The next few months I just really want to be able to not be super hard on myself and just take it day by day and do the steps. I’m not trying to look at the bigger goal; just take it step by step so I end up at the bigger goal. And also just being content with everything that I’ve accomplished and hopefully will accomplish, because I have big expectations for myself and sometimes I stray away from reality. So I would just like to be content with whatever result I get because I know I trained really hard to get to this point and I’m going to try my hardest whenever I compete.  

You were so young when you went to the Olympics for the first time. What would it mean to you to go to the Olympics for a second time?  

I’m super, super happy I was able to go to the Games when I was 18, so being able to go again at 22, I’m going to be a lot more mature about everything and not be petrified when I’m on the ice. I know what to expect.  

And how are you different now than you were four years ago in the months leading up to Pyeongchang? 

I feel like right now I have a lot more people behind me and a lot more people who want me to do well. Not that in 2018 I didn’t, but I think I can see who wants me to do well and who wants me to succeed and who doesn’t. Also just being able to find confidence within myself. I think everyday I’ve been working on that confidence.  
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.