Maame Biney was five years old when she and her father left Ghana in pursuit of the American Dream. They settled in the city of Reston, Virginia, blind to the fact that Biney would one day have her name featured in the record books, according to The Washington Post.

At just 17 years old, the always smiling Biney became the first African American woman to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games in speedskating. She turned 18 in January, a little over one week before making her Olympic debut in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

And the teenager was off to a hot start. She made it through her first 500-meter heat and into the round of 16, which was where things went south; a surprise bump at the start of the race threw her off her game.

As the Washington Post reports, starts are usually Biney’s best asset.

The 18-year-old told WaPo that she was “so ready to go out there and kill it, but it’s okay.” She explained that had she had a little more experience, the rocky start wouldn’t have affected her race so drastically:

“I’m still young. I’ve learned that I just can’t afford to underestimate anyone, and I just have to go out there and do my best. […]

“I feel like for more experienced racers, they get back in the rhythm very quickly. But since I’ m so young and don’t have that much experience, I’ve got to figure out how to get into that rhythm quickly.”

She continued:

“I don’t usually get bumped in the start, so it was a big shock to me. […] It’s just been so long. But I think it’s good for me because that means I have things to work on.”

Now, she will have the next four years to gain the experience and improve her craft.

And that is something Biney is looking forward to, she told WaPo— she plans to use this to motivate her for 2022:

“It’s been a good experience, and I can’t wait for World Cups and the next Olympics to do well.”

Biney will also compete in the 1,500-meter race on Saturday, February 17. However, as WaPo points out, the 500-meter race was the one Biney had the best chance of medaling in.
Watch NBC Sports’ video about her journey below:

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