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African athletes shine in 2018 Winter Olympics

by Agencies
21 Feb 2018 at 18:40hrs | Views
In the years leading up to Alberta Canada's 1988 Winter Olympics, a motely group of bobsled enthusiasts trained for the Bobsled Competition. The event, which was immortalized in Walt Disney's "Cool Runnings," brought the unlikely vision of warm-country athletes in winter sports competition to reality.

Fast forward 30 years where the South Korean 2018 Olympics is hosting multiple sportsmen and women from countries that never see a drop of ice or snow. These athletes aren't approaching the challenges like slotsplay - they are serious competitors who used imaginative techniques and resources to prepare to participate - and maybe even win a medal - in sports that are as unfamiliar to them as is slots games for South Africans in the safari.

Olympics 2018

The 2018 South Korean Olympics is shaping up to be the most African Winter Olympics yet. In the past the Winter Olympics have attracted sportsmen and women from North America, Europe, Australia and the areas of Asia that typically enjoy frigid temperatures and healthy amounts of snow and ice.

However the 2018 Olympics is seeing a new phenomena. There is a larger population of contenders from Africa and the Caribbean, as well as more African American athletes in the traditionally almost-all-white Winter Olympic Competition.

In addition to these individuals' unfamiliarity with the type of weather that accompanies Winter Olympic sporting events they must compete against athletes whose countries have strong national governing bodies and accumulate significant financing systems for the athletes-in-training.

Yet compete they do. They may not have a realistic chance of winning in their chosen sport but they represent their countries honorably.

Top Caribbean, Black and African Winter 2018 Olympic Contenders

Some of the Caribbean, Black and African contenders in the Winter 2018 Olympics include:

Nigerian Bobsled Team

Many bobsled team members are former elite track sprinters. That could account for the fact that Nigeria, which doesn't have a bobsled run anywhere in the country, is fielding a bobsled team in this Olympic competition.

The Nigerian bobsled team is the first team from an African nation to compete in bobsled at the Olympics. Win or lose, they want to make an impression. Team captain and driver Seun Adigun said that "This could be something that would be really cool, something that we give back, something that people could just be proud of and we could be just kind of low key, get it done, and we could just live in that legacy. Or, people would get really, really excited, and then we'd have to figure out how to manage life that way."

Their story illustrates just how many hurdles are involved in a team from an African country making it to the Olympics. Just the cost of travel and equipment can overwhelm athletes who are reaching for qualification. Athletes who come from nations that don't have Olympic delegations must shoulder much of the burden themselves to organize their participations.

In Nigeria's bobsled team's case, the women on the team took it upon themselves to organize a federation. Team captain Adigun took to GoFundMe to crowdsource $150,000 that would fund her team's training and gear.

The team is now in South Korea and is preparing for their first Olympic run on February 20th.

African American Athletes

Another bobsledder is Jazmine Fenlator, a New Jersey native who competed as part of the United States' bobsledding team in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Fenlator is a duel citizen of Jamaica and the United States and she decided to represent Jamaica in the South Korean games this year. One of her goals in her decision to compete for Jamaica is to act as an inspiration for other young people of color. "It's important to me that little girls and boys see someone that looks like them, talks like them, has the same culture as them, has crazy curly hair and wears it natural, has brown skin-included in different things in this world."

She expanded on her aims, saying "When you grow up and you don't see that, you feel that you can't do it and that is not right," she said. "So coming back home to Jamaica, I wanted my Jamaican people to see that they can do it … if they want to be a winter Olympian and do Alpine ski, now they see their fellow Jamaican in the Winter Olympics."

The United States Federation employs Jason Thompson as director of diversity and inclusion. Thompson says that progress is being made to field a more diverse team and that the Federation is trying to do more to recruit athletes across racial and ethnic groups.

Speed-skating is one of the sports with an African American representative.

Maame Biney was born in Ghana but came to the U.S. at age 5. She has acknowledged the importance of having a role model who is black in her own career. Biney tweeted her appreciation for being able to look up to Shani Davis, the first African American speed skater to make an Olympic team. Davis is presently competing in his fifth Olympics.

African Skiers

Sabrina Simader grew up in Austria but decided to represent her native country Kenya in the 2018 Olympics. "My mother is from Kenya, my family is from Kenya. It was my step-father's dream to have a Kenyan [in the Winter Olympics]. And mine too."

From the time that Simader was three years old she skied, first with her stepfather who owned a ski lift and trained her in the basics and later with professional trainers.

Shannon-Ogbani Abeda will be representing the African country as an Alpine skier. The Canadian-Eritrean lived in Canada with his family after his family fled the war in Eritrea where he learned to ski. He will be representing his native country in slalom skiing and giant slalom skiing events. He said "Right now my focus is to go to the Olympics, but afterward I'd like to finish school, do some coaching and get the Eritrean community on some skis"

Mathilde-Amivi PetitJean will represent Togo in cross-country skiing events. PetitJean was born in Togo and moved to France with her family when she was four years old. She lived in the Haute-Savoie region where she went cross-country skiing in the foothills of the Alps.

The Togolese Skiing Federation contacted PetitJean and asked her to represent Togo in the cross-country skiing events to which she agreed, saying "as far as I was concerned, the time had come for me to do something for Togo."

Mialitiana Clerc, originally from Madagascar, also grew up in the Haute-Savoie region where she lived with her adoptive parents. Cleric maintained a connection with Madagascar and with her biological family. She will be representing Madagascar in South Korea in the Ladies Slalom Run.

As of the beginning of the 2018 Winter Olympics, there have been no medals awarded to any athlete representing an African nation. That may change in the coming days.

Source - Agencies