Olympic medalist to appear at Lee College

Nelson Vails

Nelson Vails

Olympic medalist Nelson Vails will be the honored guest at Lee College for a special Black History Month event. He will reflect on his incredible journey from delivering packages as a New York City bike messenger to earning silver at the 1984 Los Angeles games.

“A Night with Nelson Vails” will be held from 5:30-7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the Bayer Conference Center on the college campus. After a brief reception, Vails will speak to attendees.

A Harlem, N.Y., native who was nicknamed “The Cheetah” because of his reputation as the fastest cat in the jungle, Vails is the only African-American ever to win an Olympic medal in cycling. He finished second in the individual 1,000-meter Match Sprints event at the 1984 Summer Olympics, behind fellow American Mark Gorski.

“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Vails said in a 2012 interview with USA Cycling. “They pushed me to be my very best. It was so hard just to make the team that it was easy to win a medal.”

Vails followed his Olympic success by becoming the National Sprint Champion in 1984 and the National Tandem Sprint Champion from 1984-86. He continued to compete professionally at race events in Europe and Japan until his retirement in 1995, and was inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in 2009.

Off the track, Vails has served as a cycling commentator for major television networks and as the technical adviser for the movie “Quicksilver,” which starred Kevin Bacon as a bike messenger in San Francisco. A documentary based on his life and legacy — “Cheetah: The Nelson Vails Story” — premiered this month in Harlem, and additional screenings are planned for several other cities.

For more information about “A Night with Nelson Vails” at Lee College, contact Treva Brown-Askey at 832.556.4021 or taskey@lee.edu.