Skiers from small nations revel in warm reception, opportunity to bring attention to winter sports and their countries
Adam Lamhamedi, 18, grew up in Quebec City, Canada, the son of a Canadian mother and Moroccan father. He’s always loved ski racing, but he also loves his Moroccan heritage. He has a home there and spends many summers there, but admits he’s more a cold-weather guy.
It was a relative who inquired about the possibility of him skiing under the Moroccan flag after he mentioned it was his dream on a ski camp questionnaire.
“I didn’t know it was possible,” he said after finishing 47th in Wednesday’s GS with a time of 2:59.23 – about 14 seconds slower than GS winner Ted Ligety of Park City. “It’s such an honor to be able to represent Morocco here and compete with the best.” He said there are a lot of misconceptions about those who compete from small, often warm-weather countries.
“The general thinking about it is that, ‘Oh, it’s a small country, it’s easy to enter,’ ” he said. “That’s not true. We have to meet standards of the FIS.”
Both men were flag bearers for their countries, Lamhamedi was one of three athletes, including his younger brother, and Steyn the only athlete from his country.
It didn’t matter that the pool to choose from was limited. Representing their countries in the opening ceremony was deeply moving.
“It was one of the best moment in my life,” said Lamhamedi, who was honored by the king of Morocco after winning a Youth Winter Olympic championship. “You really felt like you represent your country. You have it in your hand. It’s such an honor.”
All of those who hail from countries that most don’t even know are participating in the Winter Olympics appreciated the warm welcome the mostly Russian crowd gave them as they crossed the finish line.
“It’s been amazing,” said Steyn, who finished two runs in 57th place in 3:06.55. “I came down and even though my legs felt like concrete, I could still hear the crowd cheering for me. It was great to feel all the support.”
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