Kenya’s Olympic officials said Monday plans have been finalized to send the country’s first female athlete to the Winter Olympic Games.
Sabrina Wanjiku Simader, 19, will be Kenya’s sole representative at the Winter Olympics scheduled for Feb. 9-25 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Paul Tergat, the President of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK), said the country acknowledged Simader’s enthusiasm to compete at the highest level of competition.
“Simader’s zeal to compete in PyeongChang is a wake-up call to Kenyans to diversify to additional Olympic sports other than track and field,” Tergat told Xinhua during an interview.
“Medals are in the so-called fringe sports. Kenyans can recall from previous Olympic experience that by the time track and field events start, some countries are always way ahead of others with over 50 medals courtesy of the peripheral sports like swimming and archery,” the former world marathon record holder remarked.
“Kenya is a sporting nation and there is need to grow other disciplines so that athletes can compete in other marginal sports outside our traditional stronghold. However, all this needs funding because one cannot flourish in sports without financial support,” Tergat noted.
He called upon those parents who live and work in countries with chilly conditions to emulate Simader and encourage their children to take up winter sports.
“It is more expensive to send one athlete, like in the case of Simader, to the Olympics because she will require the same number of support personnel like coach, manager, physiotherapist, aide and other staff, than a contingent comprising of many athletes,” Tergat said.
Francis Paul, NOCK Secretary General, said Simader has been fully sponsored by the organisation to represent the East African nation at the quadrennial event.
“We have done all that it pertains for her to take part in the Olympics, like catering for her kit, equipment, accreditation, travelling bills and all other aspects of competition,” Paul said.
Simader, who was born in Kenya and raised in Austria, will become Kenya’s second ever athlete to compete at the Winter Olympics after Philip Boit achieved the debut feat subsequent to securing a place to represent Kenya in the 10km cross country event at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
Paradoxically, Boit, who competed in two subsequent Winter Olympics later at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics and 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, has been appointed by NOCK as Simader’s manager at the games.
“Boit will travel from Kenya whereas Simader will jet out from Switzerland to PyeongChang where the two will meet,” Paul said.
Whilst skiers from African nations are usually looked at as novelty at the Winter Olympics, the teenager competes in the more challenging and dangerous speed disciplines; Downhill and Super G whereas racers from outside Alpine skiing nations do not venture beyond the less risky slalom events.
“I am Kenyan, which makes me exotic. Some people think I cannot ski well. I want to give a good performance that will help me to become a professional skier,” she said during an earlier interview.