Nelson Vails

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Nelson Vails
Vails in February 2007
Personal information
Born (1960-10-13) October 13, 1960 (age 63)
Harlem, New York
Medal record
Men's cycling
Representing  United States
Olympic Games
Silver medal – second place 1984 Los Angeles Individual Sprint
Pan American Games
Gold medal – first place 1983 Caracas Individual Sprint

Nelson Beasley Vails (born October 13, 1960) is a retired road and track cyclist from the United States. He rode as a professional from 1988 to 1995 representing the US at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California, where he became the first African American and first person of African descent to win an Olympic medal in cycling.[1] He won the silver medal in the sprint, behind countryman Mark Gorski.[2] He was inducted to the US Bicycle Hall of Fame in 2009.[1]

Vails was also seen as a New York bicycle messenger in the film Quicksilver. He didn't just play a bicycle messenger in "Quicksilver," he worked as one in New York City. His nickname was "The Cheetah."[3] After his sporting career he has worked as a cycling commentator for major TV networks and taken part in cycling safety programs.

In 2005 Vails was inducted into the Lehigh Valley Velodrome Cycling Hall of Fame.[4]


1st Pan American Games, individual sprint
2nd Olympic Games, sprint
1st US National Track Champion, individual sprint
1st US National Track Champion, tandem sprint
2nd Track World Champion, tandem sprint
1st US National Track Champion, tandem sprint
1st US National Track Champion, tandem sprint


  1. ^ a b Bowen, Bob. "Nelson Vails | USBHOF". Retrieved August 1, 2021.
  2. ^ Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Nelson Vails". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on April 18, 2020. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  3. ^ Mara Bovsun. "Fastest Cat – Nelson Vails". Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  4. ^ "Hall of Fame". Valley Preferred Cycling Center. Retrieved February 6, 2017.