Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Olympics: Zimbabwe sends 1st athlete to Winter Olympics
First Published Jan 30 2014 10:31 am • Last Updated Feb 07 2014 04:51 pm

Harare, Zimbabwe • Zimbabwe has seen a sprinkling of snow only once, and it wasn’t even in Luke Steyn’s lifetime.

Doesn’t matter one bit.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The 20-year-old Steyn will still be the southern African country’s first Winter Olympics athlete when he races in the slalom and giant slalom at the 2014 Games in Sochi — the final stage of a journey from his sweltering, snowless country of birth to the University of Colorado and beyond.

"He might not get a gold, but there’s plenty of time," Kevin Atkinson, the head of the Zimbabwe Snow Sports Association, told The Associated Press. "It’s great experience and a fantastic achievement to represent our country at the Winter Games."

Alongside Steyn’s personal story, it’s also remarkable that Zimbabwe has a snow sports organization. Snow has fallen in the country once, records indicate, more than 50 years ago when a freak light dusting settled in a central region in 1960.

But since Jamaica’s bobsled team turned up at the 1988 Calgary Games with borrowed sleds and a dream, the Winter Olympics has become reachable for athletes from all sorts of countries — snow or not.

In Africa, Togo and Morocco also have athletes who have qualified for Sochi this year, while South Africa could have sent a slalom skier, too, but decided to turn his place down. The Cayman Islands, the Virgin Islands and tropical Tonga in the south Pacific will also send competitors to Sochi — itself one of the few places in Russia with a sub-tropical climate.

Of course, Steyn needed snow and therefore other countries to make his winter dream happen after first taking up skiing on family vacations in Europe. He perfected his art while studying in the United States, on trips to New Zealand and Chile, and then throughout Europe in a bid to qualify.

Backed by Zimbabwe’s recently formed snow sports group and the national sports council, he said he drove about 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) through France, Italy and Switzerland in 20 days to gather enough points in his events to make the grade for Sochi before the Jan. 19 cutoff for qualifying.

There were also weather problems in Europe, where poor snowfalls affected his schedule almost every day. Once again, Steyn was left chasing the snow.


story continues below
story continues below

"It has been a case of readjusting to the European winter where races have been tougher and there have been a large amount of athletes at the races that haven’t been canceled," Steyn said.

When it comes to the country of his birth, Steyn’s skiing has taken him further away from Zimbabwe, yet he said he’s dedicated to his home country and will return.

"Africa is in your blood," he said.

In a troubled nation that has an estimated 3 million people living abroad as economic or political fugitives, Steyn also has the backing of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee and the state-run Sports and Recreation Council to wear Zimbabwe’s colors on the Sochi snow.

"This is a first for us. We are fully behind the athlete who will lift the country’s flag there," ZOC chief executive Anna Mguni said.

Atkinson, who shares his role as head of the snow sports association with his day job as a high school headmaster, added that Zimbabwe’s competitive sporting spirit — displayed by golfers like Nick Price and two-time Olympic swimming champion Kirsty Coventry — was pivotal in helping create its first Winter Olympics qualifier.

The lack of snow didn’t matter.

"(Steyn) has had a lot of people wondering how we can produce a world-class skier," Atkinson said. "Zimbabwe tends to breed a competitive spirit. But it’s not just about winning at all costs. It’s a healthy enthusiasm for all sport."



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.