Montell Douglas column: How do we encourage more black people into winter sports?

Montell Douglas, a British bobsleigh brakewoman, is hoping to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics at Beijing. She was also a former British sprinter and competed in the relay and 100m at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. This is her first column for BBC Sport.
This month is Black History Month. However, unlike the athletics field in which I work, there is a noticeable lack of black people or people of color.

There are many reasons why this is so, including economics and access.

I hadn't seen a mountain in my life until I was almost 30. When I was in school, I thought that skiers were wealthy. I would say, "How can you go skiing? I can only go there." It was the opposite of everything I was used to.

My family is Jamaican. We have sun, beaches and heat. Even though we were born and raised in Britain, our bodies aren’t used to the cold of the mountains. When I tell a black person that I went to Pyeongchang, they always want to know how I dealt with the cold.

There are a lot of black athletes in Bobsleigh. This is because it's a very easy transition from athletics. Many of my teammates were athletics friends, and many of the team are of black heritage. So it wasn't as though I was joining a white-dominated team. It was a great mix of people.

I was introduced to bobsleigh by the sprints coach. At the time, they were trying to recruit more members and make girls faster. Bobsleigh is all about speed. I broke the test record my first time I tried it.

But, I'm a true south-east London girl. I can still remember going to a mountain training camp. It was freezing and I was right in the middle of a ski resort. Joel Fearon, a former sprinter, and I went on a walk together. I asked him why he was here.

This is why you don't see many people of color in winter sports. You are not exposed to it.

"We can't hide our heads in the snow over racism"

We drive long distances between countries. Once, we were stopped by police because I was driving. We never get stopped if a white teammate drives.

It's rare to see women driving large vans like the one we have. And, because I'm black, it's not something they'd expect to see. They want to see our passports. When I open the back of my van, they see the Bobsleigh. Because it happens so often, it's not subtle racism.

In the world of bobsleigh, I've experienced microaggressions just like any other industry.

How can we get more people of color and blacks to take up winter sports? We must not hide our heads in the snow. Instead, we must address the racism within the landscape and confront it head-on.

We can then look at ways to make it safer for all those who might consider it. This includes reducing the hierarchical power that could be held responsible for others' actions.

Many people experience racism in different ways. The winter sports are no exception.

Montell Douglas and Mica MacNeill compete on the World Cup circuit

"Being a reserve at Pyeongchang means fuel for Beijing"

Only 100 days remain until the Beijing Winter Olympics. It's amazing how fast it has come.

This is my last Olympics. But you never know. As a person, I am very indecisive. However, there are many things in my life that I would like to do. I don't want to be referred to as an athlete all the time.

In Pyeongchang four years ago, when I participated in my first Winter Olympics. It was bittersweet, as I wanted to compete in the Winter Olympic Games.

Although I had hamstring surgery prior to the season, I was inarguably the best shape I have ever been leading up to the Games. I ran out of time. It might have been different if I had another two weeks. This is sport. You must be available on a specific day and at a precise time.

It was hard to be on top of the mountain together with other "spares", as we were known. It is the most offensive word in the English language. It's like being a part of the problem. However, I am proud of my integrity and tried to support everyone.

It has fueled my determination to participate in the Beijing sled race. Although it could have turned the other direction, it was mentally difficult, especially for someone who has just finished 100m in the blue riband Olympic sports. You must take your goal on the chin to reach your goals.

The Beijing Covid-19 restrictions are calming me down. Last year was a difficult one.

We learned a lot, took a lot hits, and missed some races. Our ranking was affected by bubbles being penetrated all over the place. But we quickly learned and adapt and that will be a great asset for us moving forward.

I am not worried about the Games. We will get on with it. You will be more successful if you are more flexible.

Montell Douglas spoke to Katie Falkingham, BBC Sport.

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