A native of Greensboro, NC, Joey Cheek grew up as an inline skater and made the switch to the ice in 1995. Cheek began his ice career as an “Allround” or distance skater but later switched to the shorter sprint distances, where he really began to shine. A bronze medal winner in the 1,000 meter event at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, Cheek fulfilled a lifelong dream at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy, where he won gold in the 500 meters and silver in the 1,000 meters. That same season Cheek won the World Sprint Championships and became the first-ever recipient of US Speedskating’s ‘Eric Heiden Athlete of the Year’ award.
Perhaps Cheek’s most notable effort, however, began off the ice when he made the remarkable gesture of donating $40,000 in winnings to Right To Play, an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play as a tool to help young people in the most disadvantaged areas of the world. In April, he visited Zambia to see the organization’s work first-hand.
Cheek‘s donation announcement in Torino was quickly followed by his call to action to others in support of the people of the Darfur region of the Sudan. His generosity inspired corporations and individuals alike; to date hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for the region. Cheek continues to work to call attention to Darfur on an ongoing basis. His influence in doing so earned him spot on Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list and recognition at the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative where Joey officially launched his personal campaign to take action for Darfur.