After recently announcing the addition of three-time World Figure Skating Champion and Olympic medalist Nathan Chen to its roster, Tuesday Team Panasonic continued to build on that momentum by welcoming short track speed skater Maame Biney and para-snowboarder Noah Elliott.
Chen, Biney and Elliott join Olympians Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky Sakura Kokumai and Paralympian Lex Gillette on the Team Panasonic roster. The newcomers join their teammates in standing out not only for their athletic achievements, but their commitments to breaking barriers and giving back off the field of play.
Biney became the first Black woman to represent Team USA TISI in an Olympic short track competition when she competed in the 1500m and 500m at the 2018 PyeongChang Games. Born in Ghana, she is just the second African-born athlete to compete for Team USA at the Winter Olympics.
When Biney relocated to the U.S. and Northern Virginia at five years old, she began figure skating before a coach suggested she switch to speed skating.
Biney burst onto the scene when she won bronze in the 500m at the 2017 World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships, and she qualified for the Olympics in December 2017 by winning the 500m at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
“I’m proud to join Team Panasonic in its pursuit to empower and uplift youth in their most daring endeavors,” said Biney. “I strongly believe in following your goals and purpose, and I look forward to working with Panasonic to spread positivity, create meaningful change and continue opening up doors for future generations to come.”
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A student at the University of Utah, Biney hopes to use her platform to advocate for access and opportunities for youth.
Believe it or not, it was after he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma bone cancer at 15 years old that Noah Elliott decided to become a world-renowned snowboarder. And he cites his daughter, Skyler, as his motivation.
In the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, that dream became reality as Elliott won gold in the banked slalom event and bronze in snowboard cross.
Earlier this month, Elliott defeated fellow American Mike Schultz for gold in the men’s snowboard cross SB-LL1 final at the World Para Snowboard World Cup.
Through his ambassadorship with Wiggle Your Toes, which works to empower those who have lost a limb, Elliott hopes to help other amputees achieve their loftiest goals.
“As a cancer survivor and amputee, I’ve experienced first-hand the tenacity and determination it takes to overcome obstacles to achieve your goals,” said Elliott. “At the end of the day, I strive to be someone others can look up to, on and off the snowboard, by giving back and helping others.”
Growing up, both Elliott’s mom and aunt worked at Hussmann, a subsidiary of Panasonic. He is grateful for what he calls “a full-circle opportunity.”
“Passion is at the heart of Team Panasonic, and Noah and Maame have no shortage of it,” Lauren Sallata, chief marketing officer of Panasonic North America, told me. “From the devotion to their respective sports, to Noah’s dedication to the amputee community and Maame’s commitment to uplifting and creating opportunities for others, passion drives each and every move they make. We are excited to welcome them to Team Panasonic, and we look forward to making a positive impact and driving change.”
Not only do the roster moves celebrate diversity of gender, race and sport, but they also dovetail with Panasonic’s upcoming indicatives to expand its social impact programming. The company has two events coming up in that vein with 28-time Olympic medalist Phelps and five-time Olympic medalist Ledecky respectively.
On April 21, Phelps, through his foundation’s “IM” program, will connect with the Boys & Girls Club of Newark and the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows in Reno in a hybrid virtual and in-person event. The focus will be on encouraging water safety, physical and mental wellness, and goal-setting.
Phelps has been a central figure in advocating for Olympians’ mental health, recently narrating and coproducing a documentary, The Weight of Gold, that shined a light on the often silent struggles Olympians face with depression and anxiety.
On May 4, Katie Ledecky’s Dive Into STEM Education Powered by Panasonic program will be extended to additional schools, with the aim of promoting the importance of STEM education.
“For more than a century, Panasonic has been a company focused on doing well by giving back and making a difference. Our foundation was built on a purpose-driven philosophy with one of our core principles being ‘contribution to society,’” Sallata said.
“One of Panasonic’s most important investments in the future is fostering the next generation of innovators and change makers, and helping them achieve their goals. With the help of our more than 260,000 employees along with inspiring athletes who share a social purpose, Team Panasonic is working together to move the world forward.”
In March, Chen punched his ticket to the 2022 Beijing Games when he won his third-straight figure skating world title in Stockholm. Biney and Elliott’s recent wins at the U.S. Short Track Speedskating Championships and World Para Snowboard World Cup, respectively, will also see them through to Beijing. The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to begin with the Opening Ceremony on Friday, Feb. 4.