Alpine-skiing is not a popular sport amongst African athletes for obvious reasons. Although some African countries do get cold winters along with snowfall. It’s never quite enough for this extreme sport. That however didn’t stop Sabrina Simader, a Kenyan born, now Olympic Alpine skier.
Road to 2018 Winter Olympic Games
Born in Kenya and raised in Austria, Sabrina has become Kenya’s first female ski Olympic contestant. The now 20 year old professional skier first tried skiing at the age of 3. Soon after she moved to Austria. Twelve years later, at the age of 15, she entered her first competition. Her passion for the sport has only grown since then. Sabrina has since competed in major events such as the 2016 Youth Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. The 2017 World Cup event in Maribor, Slovenia. The 2017 World Championships in St.Mortiz, Switzerland. Her most recent competition being the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. She came in 38th position out of 44 competitors. Her attendance at the South Korean hosted event, was the country’s first return to the winter Olympics since their debut in 2006.
Sabrina’s competitive nature and “can do” attitude pushed her through many situations where most would have given up. As one of the only black skiers in her region, she would often receive a lot of stares from onlookers on the slopes where she practiced. Although initially it was daunting, it fueled her passion. To her, this was simply motivation to work harder. She is quoted saying: “Stares give me a push. I know I can make it. I can prove myself”.
Representing Kenya at the Olympic Games
Sabrina has always watched the Winter Olympic Games and hoped that one day a Kenyan would compete in the prestigious event. All this despite living most of her life in Austria. Therefore when choosing which country to represent at the Olympics, Kenya was a no-brainer for the then 19 year old. She did however face some challenges as there is a lack of awareness about the sport in Kenya. In an interview with BBC, Simader said that things were “difficult” in dealing with the Kenyan National Olympics Committee for funding. She relied mainly on her sponsors and crowd-funding to get her to the games. Not many people knew of the financial needs associated with the competition. It was a bitter-sweet journey for the young skier. Although she had many supporters and the country cheering her on, she still needed funding.
Why representation matters
Estimated costs to compete range from $250,000 to $300,000. A hefty amount especially taking into consideration that the country has never had to fund such a sport. Given that they don’t often attend Winter Olympics, it’s hardly ever a thought in their sporting budget. Although Sabrina’s story is a positive one, unfortunately not all stories end up this way. A lot of African youth forfeit their dreams. Not only because there are so many emotional, mental and physical battles associated with them. The main challenge is that sometimes after overcoming all those battles, the people you choose to represent aren’t prepared for your success.
This is a story of how defying all odds can have a domino effect. Simader has not only shown young African children that they can be anything they put their minds to. She’s also brought awareness to African sporting committees who now not only budget for competitions involving winter sports. They are also encouraging youth to take part with different programs being run throughout Africa (one of them being the Olympic sports center in Zambia -linked). Sabrina has achieved what she set out to do which was: “Show the world that a Kenyan girl can ski really fast” and in that she’s brought about change. Her message to African youth has been to dream big and work hard in order to achieve those dreams.
Author: Amanda Masuku
A passionate writer continuously looking for unique stories to tell the world. Given all the diversity in the world and this new age where information is easily accessible, a good story is always around the corner. A lot of those stories often go untold or told from a negative perspective. As a writer I look not only to educate and inform but also to build connections through intricate stories that make you feel connected to the subjects.