Sabrina Simader, a 19-year-old Alpine skier from Austria, has made history for Kenya. She will be the first Olympian to represent Kenya in Alpine skiing, and just their second Winter Olympian ever. Simader confirmed to NBC Sports on Thursday that she had indeed entered to fill the sole Alpine skiing spot given to Kenya, which is a quota spot.
So how does a skier who lives in Austria come to represent Kenya, which is better known for their track & field athletes at the Summer Olympics? The connection between Simader and Kenya is simple: she was born there. According to Reuters, Simader moved to Austria with her mother when she was three, and she’s making the most of both her connections.
“My roots are Kenyan but I have the Austrian mentality,” she said.
“I didn’t live there but I‘m very proud of my Kenyan roots. I‘m looking forward to representing Kenya enormously. The Olympics have been my dream since I was small.”
Simader is taking her Kenyan roots and Austrian mentality to Pyeongchang, and she’s gotten there with a support team that’s much smaller than the ones that countries like Norway and Switzerland have. Simader is supported by her coach, Christian Reif, who works full-time for the Kenya Ski Federation (which is an actual thing), and Simader’s mother, Sarah. Reif takes on multiple roles, acting as a coach, a trainer, an equipment manager, and more.
Simader has been skiing since she moved to Austria at age three, and won a local championship at 13. Her goal now, as it was then, is to get better with every race.
“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.
When Simader marches into the opening ceremony as Kenya’s sole representative, she’ll join Philip Boit as the only athletes to ever compete for Kenya at a Winter Olympics. Boit is also a skier, and participated in cross-country in 1998, 2002, and 2006. Boit told Kenya’s The Star that he’s thrilled Simader will be continuing his legacy of Kenyan skiing. And who knows, if Simader does well, she could start a Kenyan skiing craze.
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