Help Olympian Cyclist Nelson Vails Finish His Film

August 27, 2013–By Jen Benepe

He was the first black man to win an Olympic medal in cycling, and now they’re making a movie about him. And they need your help.

That’s Nelson Vails, now 53, he wowed the world in 1984 by winning a silver medal in the 1,000 meter match sprint track category at the summer Olympics.

Vails and his filmmakers have already raised more than $12,000 of a $25,000 goal on Indiegogo, a fundraising site that is popular for people in sports.

Born October 13, 1960 in Harlem, NY,  Nelson Beasley Vails was a professional bike rider from 1988 to 1995. He also played a New York bike messenger in the movie Quicksilver.  The role was a natural one for him, because he worked as a messenger in the city.

His nickname was the Cheetah, thus the name of the film, “Cheetah: The Nelson Vails Story.” On the Indiegogo site, the filmmakers say,

Becoming a pioneer for the African-American cycling community, this documentary explores the beginnings of [Vail’s] life in Harlem and his impact on the future generation of cyclists worldwide.  It follows the triumph of Nelson’s achievements with the sobering reality of what becomes of athletes after retirement.  We see Nelson’s resurgence today as an advocate for recreational cycling and as a role model for the African-American community, culminating in a reunion with teammate and opponent Mark Gorski, as they revisit the site of their historical race.  In the end, Nelson’s story is simply about a kid whose love for the bicycle led him to transcend racial and economic barriers to becoming a legacy.

Below is Vail’s list of cycling achievements (thanks to Wikipedia.) If you help pay for the film now, no doubt you will doubly enjoy seeing it once it is completed. Click here to contribute. See the trailer below:


Nelson Vails

• 2009 Inductee to the US Bicycle Hall of Fame

• 1984 Olympics: Track – Sprint Silver, 1984

• First African-American to win an Olympic Cycling Medal

• 1985 World Championships: Tandem Sprint, Silver

• 1984, 1985, 1986 National Tandem Sprint Champion

• 1984 National Sprint Champion

• 1983 Pan American Games: Gold Medal

• 1980s and 1990s competed professionally in the 6-Day circuits in Europe and the Japanese Keirin events.

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