Hines, Garrett & Jones, Randy
Garrett Hines & Randy Jones
On February 23, 2002, Garrett Hines and Randy Jones made history in Salt Lake City, Utah, when they became the first African-American men to medal in the Winter Olympics. Finishing with a silver medal in the four-man bobsled competition, Hines and Jones also helped break a 46-year losing streak for the U.S. bobsled team. In the sport, which requires a team of two or four men to push a sled from the top of a ice-coated chute and hurtle down at speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour, Hines and Jones acted as “pushers,” providing the raw energy to launch the sled into its run and, as “brakemen,” controlling the sled as it careened down the 1300-meter chute.
The two men, who became friends while rooming together in Atlanta, Georgia, both grew up in the South, far from the snowy slopes that are home to the sport of bobsledding. As youths, both men excelled in football and track and both began bobsledding on a whim. After his Olympic win, Jones admitted to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I fell into this sport.” He added, “and today I fell into a medal.” Hines concurred: “Kids don’t generally grow up wanting to become bobsledders, even where the sport is happening, “he stated in an article on the U.S. Olympic Committee website.” They grow up wanting to become baseball, football, basketball players.” Fortunately for African-American athletes and for the sport of bobsledding, Hines and Jones chose instead to pursue this winter sport. It was also a good move for the men. Jones has traveled to the Olympics three times, and Hines twice. In addition to their silver medal, they have won numerous bobsled titles around the world.
Garrett Hines was born on July 3, 1969, in Chicago, Illinois, and was raised in Memphis, Tennessee. While growing up, his dream was to be a professional basketball player. However, by the time he reached high school he was not only fast, but big. He began to play football, and won an athletic scholarship to Southern Illinois University. There he excelled in both football and track, playing halfback on the field and sprinting the 100-and 200-meter races on the track. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1992 and later went on to earn a master’s degree in education. One of his college friends was on his way to Lake Placid, New York, in 1992, to try out for the U.S. bobsled team, and he talked Hines into going along for the ride. Once there, he was persuaded to try out for the team as well. The speed and power he had developed in football and track were in evidence during his try out, and he landed the position of “pusher.” The placement took him by surprise. According to the Africana website, Hines
At a Glance…
Born Randy Jones, on June 24, 1969, in Winston-Salem, NC; born Garrett Hines on July 3, 1969, in Chicago, IL; Jones: married Cheri Jones; Hines: married Ileana Hines. Education: Jones: Duke University, B.A. (mechanical engineering); Hines: Southern Illinois University, B.A. (biological science), M.A. (education). Military Service: Hines: U.S. Army Reserve, 1996-.
Career: Competitive bobsledders; Jones: SunTrust Bank, Atlanta, GA, computer technician. Hines: Home Depot, Orlando, FL.
Memberships: U.S. Olympic bobsled team, 1994 (Jones), 1998, 2002; Hines: Home Depot, member, Olympic athletes program.
Awards: Jones: World Cup overall and combined champion, 1992-93; Bronze medals, World Championships, 1993, 1997; silver medal, 1996 World Cup; won Brakeman Push Championships, 1992, 1995. Hines: Three World Cup medals, 1996-97; Gold medal, 1998 World Cup; Army Athlete of the Year, 1998; silver medal, 1999 World Cup; won Brakeman Push Championships, 2000, 2001. Together: Gold medal, 1997 World Cup; Gold medal, 2000 World Cup; medal contention, 2002 World Cup; Silver medal, Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, UT, 2002.
Addresses: Office —U.S. bobsled and Skeleton Federation, 421 Old Military Road, P.O. Box 828, Lake Placid, NY 12946.
recalled his first training run: “I was so scared I almost quit right there.” Holding off his fears, Hines made his competitive bobsled debut during the 1995-96 racing season. He found support for his newly-discovered sport in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he enlisted in as a lieutenant in 1996. Soon after joining, he was accepted into the prestigious U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program based out of Fort Carson, Colorado. “My training in the Army Reserve really helped me set goals as a civilian, a soldier and as an athlete,” Hines said, in an article on the UnityFirst website. Currently Hines lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife, Ileana. He works for Home Depot and is a member of the company’s Olympic athletes program.
Randy Jones took a similar route to the sport of bobsledding. He was born on June 24, 1969, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At Glenn High School he was an all-state running back on the football team as well as state track champion. Following his 1987 graduation, he went on to continue his athletic career at Duke University. On the track team he was twice named Most Valuable Player of the year. On the football team he became the top kickoff return specialist in school history, and played in the 1989 All-American Bowl. In a 1998 interview four years before his Olympic achievement, he admitted to dreams of a professional football career. “Hopefully next year, I’ll be able to pursue my NFL career as a kick returner and special-teams guy,” he told the Winston-Salem Journal. In 1992 Jones graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. That same year he tried out for the U.S. bobsled team after bobsled recruiters saw him run at a track meet. With his track coach’s encouragement, he traveled to Lake Placid and made the team. Two years later he made his Olympic debut at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Despite the glory of being at the Olympics, Jones’s experience was disappointing. He came in 13th in the two-man race, and his four-man team was disqualified amid controversy regarding the temperature of the steel runners on their sled. The judges ruled that they were too warm. Following this experience he moved to Atlanta to train with the other U.S. bobsledders living there, including Hines. He soon bought a home in the suburb of Smyrna, took on a computer technician position with SunTrust bank, and got married. Except for a brief retirement in 1998, he continued to train and compete internationally. After his medal win in 2002, he commented to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the strain of his rigorous schedule on his marriage. “My wife and I have been arguing for six months about me being gone so much.” He added playfully, “I guess I’ll have to take her somewhere warm now.”
The bobsledding careers of both Jones and Hines accelerated, and they became regulars on the international racing circuit. They competed in World Cup and World Championship events, winning numerous medals. Jones took third at the World Championships in 1993, a silver medal at the 1996 World Cup and, along with Hines, gold at the 1997 World Cup. Hines won three World Cup medals in the 1996-97 season, scored a silver medal at the 1999 World Cup, and placed fourth in the 2000 World Championships. Hines was also named the 1998 Armed Forces Athlete of the Year. In addition both men have won top honors at the National Brakeman Championships—Hines in 2000 and 2001, and Jones in 1992 and 1995.
The 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, marked Jones’s second Olympic appearance and Hines’s debut. In an article on the Africana website, Hines recalled the awe he felt standing at the top of the chute before the race, knowing that his team had a viable chance at a medal: “I never imagined this. Not in a million years.” However, a medal remained just out of their reach. The team finished fourth, missing the bronze by just two-hundredths of a second. The loss was a crushing blow for Jones’s confidence. In an interview with the Winston-Salem Journal just prior to the race, he declared, “We can win the four-man.” The disappointment was enough to make him temporarily leave the sport. At those same games Hines also finished out of medal contention in the two-man run, ending up in tenth place.
With their frequent presence on the international bobsledding circuit, Jones and Hines have become used to being two of the few blacks who participate at winter competitions. Jones recounted in an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution how he continually heard the question “What’s a black man from Atlanta doing out here in the snow in a bobsled?” According to an article on the Africana website, “By the numbers, there are few blacks or Latinos in countries that dominate winter sports or in the northern regions of the United States.” However, bobsledding is turning out to be different. While long dominated by white Europeans, it has become increasingly diversified since the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, when an unlikely team from Jamaica, racing under the name “Cool Runners,” made their bobsledding debut. Though many in the field scoffed, the Jamaicans had one of the fastest start times of the games, and garnered international attention for the sport. Their success inspired other non-European nations to embrace bobsledding, and soon there were teams from decidedly non-wintry locales such as Trinidad, Tobago and Puerto Rico. The Jamaicans were also the inspiration for the Disney film Cool Runnings. That same Olympic year, famed black sprinters Edwin Moses and Willie Gault were recruited to try out for the U.S. bobsled team. Because of their strength, speed, and agility, football and track players were naturals for bobsledding. A few years later, black football star Herschel Walker was recruited to serve as a pusher on a U.S. team..
All of these developments served to open the sport to more blacks. At the 2002 Winter games in Salt Lake City, three members of the U.S. bobsled team were African-American. Before the games ended, all three would hold medals. Vonetta Flowers made history as the first African American to win gold at the Winter Olympics. As the brakewoman on the two-person U.S. women’s bobsled team, she raced to victory during the inaugural women’s bobsled event. A few days later, Jones and Hines found themselves back at the top of another icy chute, knowing that they too had a chance to join Flowers in history. Hines had already missed out on a medal during these games when his two-man team came in three-hundredths of a second behind the bronze winners. Jones, a two-time Olympian still looking for a medal, was also feeling the pressure facing his third Winter games—and his first on U.S. soil. In an interview on the GoDuke.com website prior to the games, he said” I could care less about the publicity and everything else. It’s just the medal right now.
Hines and Jones had prepared tirelessly for that moment at the top of the run. With their combined two decades of professional bobsledding experience, they were ready to win, and their years of hard work finally paid off. Along with their team members, they launched their bobsled to a silver medal victory, just three-hundredths of a second behind the German gold medal winners. With their win, the American team had also ended a 46-year-long medal drought for the American men’s bobsled team. Jones described how he felt on learning his team had won silver: “It’s like someone was pounding on my chest so hard, like I needed to be resuscitated,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Hines and Jones’s win was hailed around the world, not only for ending the U.S. losing streak, but also for enabling them to join Flowers as the first African-Americans to win medals in bobsledding. All three of the athletes expressed hope that their success would encourage more blacks to try winter sports. Jones summed up these feelings, telling the Pasadena Star, “I think the doors can definitely open now. It’s something we can do, and do well.” He continued, “It’s not a black thing; it’s not a white thing.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 24, 2002, pp. Al, E9; February 25, 2002, p. D6.
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), February 23, 2002, p. D6; February 24, 2002, p. Dl.
Dallas Morning News, February 24, 2002 p. 30B.
Jet, January 28, 2002, p. 54; March 11, 2002, p. 51.
Officer, April 2002, p. 20.
Pasadena Star, February 24, 2002.
Winston-Salem Journal, February 3, 1998, p. CI; February 22, 2002 p. C1.
U.S. Olympic Committee, http://www.olympicusa.org
USA Bobsled, http://www.usabobsledandskeleton.org/garretthines.htm
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