Once again, it’s time for people in the United States to give cursory attention to winter sports. In about a week, the 2018 Winter Olympics being in Pyeongchang, South Korea. As always, the hubbub over scandals and costs swamps the news in the run up to the Games, knocking the actual athletes off even the back pages of the sports sections.
Even with normal coverage, it’s easy for an individual athlete to get overlooked. Over a thousand athletes in attendance, the big powerhouses of winter sports getting all the glory…. How must it feel to be your country’s only representative?
Here they are (asterisks indicate a country’s first appearance in the Winter Games):
Tucker Murphy (cross-country skiing) will be competing in his third Olympics.
Dinos Lefkaritis (alpine skiing) is in his second Olympics.
Klaus Jungbluth (cross-country skiing)
“About a year and a half ago Ecuador wasn’t affiliated with the ski federation, so nobody was able to compete for Ecuador,” Jungbluth said. “After pushing the Olympic Committee to help me out to create a federation, we finally made it and I was able to get the permission to compete in races for Ecuador.”
“It’s something that is difficult to describe because I remember when I started, and I saw that dream so far away, that I thought it was almost impossible,” he said. “Now I’m here and I made it, and it’s very rewarding.” (source)
Shannon-Ogbani Abeda (alpine skiing)
“I know the odds,” admits Abeda, who was born in Canada to a refugee family. “So, I really don’t feel the pressure with that or the pressure of representing (Eritrea). I know that the Eritrean community is proud to have someone represent them and put them on the map. I feel more pressure internally to do the best to my abilities. To do my best regardless of the standing.” (source)
Akwasi Frimpong (skeleton)
He’s won a total of 16 medals in various international competitions in both summer and winter sports, but this will be his first Olympics. A “chain migration” “DREAMer” in the Netherlands (his mother moved there first, then brought him when he was 8) until getting legal status in 2007.
Arabella Caroline Yili Ng (alpine skiing)
She only started competing about three months ago. “It will be a fantastic experience for her and the family,” her father Tim Ng said. “Most families would be planning for 12 months before the games, while we have four weeks to prepare.” (source)
Sabrina Simader (alpine skiing)
Simader moved to Austria with her mother when she was three, and she started skiing almost immediately. She won her first competition at the age of 13. “At the beginning, people looked at me — okay, a black skier always gets looked at — but when your performances get better and you improve, you win them over,” she said. (source)
Albin Tahiri (alpine skiing)
“I may still have not realized the greatness of it. I am doing it for me, my family and also for all Kosovo citizens.” (source)
Matthieu Osch (alpine skiing)
Mialitiana Clerc (alpine skiing)
Elise Pellegrin (alpine skiing)
Competing since 2006, these are her second Olympics.
Charles Flaherty (alpine skiing)
Connor Wilson (alpine skiing)
“Coming from a dry country like South Africa with extremely limited winter sport conditions, our teams to winter sports have traditionally always been small,” SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) president Gideon Sam said. “But, as we do in all our myriad sports, snow sports are still an important part of the sporting family.” (source)
Cheyenne Goh (short track speed skating)
“I’m definitely pretty outclassed when I go there, so I think I’m just really excited to have the experience of being at the biggest winter sporting event in the world.” (source)
Alessandro Mariotti (alpine skiing)
” I want to show that the Republic of San Marino does not go to Pyeongchang only for a role as a spectator but to certify its great growth started a few years ago.” (source)
Pita Taufatofua (cross-country skiing)
The flag-bearer from Rio is back!
“After Rio I decided to find the hardest sport possible, because I needed a new challenge, and the hardest sport possible was cross country skiing,” he told the Olympic Channel. “You know look at the conditions, it’s like freezing, it’s negative a million degrees, and then you’ve got to put your body through something really challenging.” (source)
Yohan Goncalves Goutt (alpine skiing)
These will be his second Olympics.