Sunday, February 14, 2010

Olympic solo-fliers

Like a lot of people, I've been zoning out watching people I never heard of participate in sports I know nothing about amid the cold white stuff (and slush) in Vancouver this weekend.

Just for fun, I thought I'd see if I could bring together some pictures of Winter Olympic athletes who are the sole representatives of their countries. Compared to the summer games, the field seems monochromatic, but these individuals have somehow got themselves and their countries on the roster, even if they almost all have no chance of winning anything.

Representing Columbia: Cynthia Densler
This skier (born in the USA) is the only woman in the solo-flier category.

Representing Ethiopia: Robel Teklemariam
According to the BBC, this fellow hopes Ethiopian prowess at long distance running can be applied at cross country skiing. Though he lives in the US, he still speaks Amharic.

Representing Ghana: Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong
This guy is a great story according to the Telegraph. He was born in Scotland where his father was getting a doctorate, raised in Ghana, but returned to the UK years later and drifted into a job as receptionist at the Xscape skiing centre in Milton Keynes, where he began to practice skiing.

He finished 13th in his first race and spent his debut professional season in 2004 at Meribel in the French Alps, where he watched other racers and copied them. The last four winters have been in the Italian Alps, funded by his summer jobs around Milton Keynes, and by the work of his wife, Sena, at the Open University. The father-of-two said: 'All I had ever known about skiing was watching a James Bond film, so it really just took off from there.'

Representing Jamaica: Errol Kerr
This Jamaican-Californian competes in a sport I never heard of: skicross. And apparently he's the only one of these solo-fliers who is actually a contender. According to the Boston Globe,

"Errol's got a good shot at the Olympics," [Olympian Johnny] Moseley said. "He's cut out for the sport."

Kerr's background helps in an event that is rowdier than Alpine ski racing, where one athlete races against the clock. In skicross, four competitors speed down a steep, winding the course together, taking on banked turns, berms and each other along the way. The first one across the finish line wins.

"It's very pure, very simple that way," said Moseley. "But there's a lot of contact, a lot of strategy and jockeying."

Representing Mexico: Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
This man's story makes you wonder about the eligibility rules. He's authentically Mexican alright despite the improbably name, and also a photographer, business man and the pop star as "Andy Himalaya." But he's way overage for a skier, having first represented Mexico in the 1984 Winter Games.

Representing Morocco: Samir Azzimani
This skier is so pleased to be in the Olympics that he is bringing along some friends. According to Reuters, he is flying in

eight secondary school children from Woippy, a depressed suburb of eastern French town Metz that made headlines for riots last month. Azzimani, who grew up in a rough area of Colombes, outside Paris, simply wanted to share his dream with youngsters from a similar background.

Representing Pakistan: Muhammad Abbas
Apparently Pakistani-Canadians, of whom there are many, got a kick out of his arrival.

Representing Portugal: Danny Silva
I didn't find anything about this skier except that he was born in the US.

Representing Senegal: Leyti Seck
Mr. Seck has dual Austrian and Senegalese nationality.

I must pull myself away from watching this stuff -- but it certainly is fun.


Betty Johanna said...

Why pull yourself away from it? I'm glued to the TV. Actually, not 100% glued to NBC. If it was on CBUT, I'd be watching TV full-time. Each Olympics there is at least one moment that takes my breath away.

Roo said...

I loved this Jan! Go Solo-Fliers! (Samir is my favorite)

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