2010 Winter Olympics: Three Stories of the Most Bizarre Winter Olympians

Josep Vernet-RieraCorrespondent IFebruary 15, 2010

Robel Teklemariam , 35, puts on his shorts and, of course, the shades. His skis are made out of an improvised beam of steel supported by a pair of small wheels, but the joy is the same.  Rolling down the streets of Addis -Abeba , Ethiopia, our Olympian is preparing himself for the Vancouver Games.

Our friend Robel is the sole representative of the state of Ethiopia, where temperatures average between minimal values of 9ºC and maximal values of 28ºC.

Like anyother skier goes through the slope, before practise, Robel also analyzes the streets carefully before rolling them down. After all, you don't want to get either run over by a car or run into some donkey standing in the middle of the street.

"I think this street is perfect and it does not have a lot of traffic, either," reports the Olympian to a Portuguese journalist. "Doing this type of training so close to the opening of the Games is not ideal. Obviously it is much better to be on the snow. The only thing good about training here, in Ethiopia, is that the 2700m of altitude gives you good conditioning."

You might be wondering, how did this Ethiopian who lives in the dusty and hot city of Addis -Ababa  come to the idea of participating in the Winter Olympics?

Well, as a child Teklemariam spent some time in New York, where he had one of his rare encounters with snow, but his Olympic wish was aroused many years later, when in 1998 he watched the famous Kenyan skiers from the Nagano Games. In 2006, he realized his dream by participating in the 2006 edition of the Winter Olympics. He ranked No. 84 among 100 competitors.

Teklemariam is not the only Olympian hailing from a country where Winter Sports are practically non-existent.

The Portuguese Olympian Danny Silva, born in New Jersey, came to Portugal at the age of 14, but he only made his comeback to cross-country skiing many years later, already as a full-grown adult.

Silva carries out his practice under temperatures that can rise up to more than 40ºC in the Alentejo , one of the driest regions in Europe. Like Teklemariam , he practices on skis sustained by rollerblades —day in and day out. Occasionally he gets to the slopes in Northern Portugal, but their conditions aren't enough for an Olympian.

This Olympian also made his debut in 2006 with a rank of 94 out of 100 participants in cross-country-skiing. As of now, he is only the eight Portuguese citizen who participated in the Winter Olympics.

Unlike Silva, the Kenyan Philip Boit , who was expecting to finish his career in Nordic skiing with his third trip to the Olympics, saw his appeal turned down by the International Ski Federation since he did not fulfill the demanded requisites: 500 points or being among the 50 best athletes in the international competitions.

Boit opted for not leaving his family.  Therefore, he trained on a regular basis with his rolling skis down the dirt tracks under 25ºC temperatures in Eldoret . Whenever it is possible, this Olympian goes to Northern Finland, although the financial and visa limitations cause him a lot of headaches.


"Last year I sold five of my cows in order to raise money to train in Finland." Now his dream is fading away.

With the establishment of the entry requirements, under the "Eddy The Eagle rule," these poor athletes have been "banned" from the Winter Olympics. 

Who is Eddie the Eagle?

Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, the British Ski "Dropper," as an Italian sportswriter nicknamed him, was the main attraction of the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary.

The man behind the legend, Michael Edwards, would jump from the ramp, screaming for dear life, and then fall like a dead weight.

However, his big glasses, his tremendous sense of humour, and his big heart made him a fan-favorite, although he ended dead last in all the competitions he went through.

Eddie got to visit many Talk Shows and he was featured in many commercials—a tabloid even payed him €50.000 for his story.

Most recently, he has participated in the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary, and he was also one of the torchbearers for the 2010 Games held in Vancouver.

It is precisely these artists that the IFS wants to take out of the Olympic stage, and it is against this precise tyranny that Teklemarian will fight as he makes his debut in the Vancouver Games, thus realizing a dream which began some 13.000km away, under the impeccable African sun.