Six African Stars Set To Compete At Beijing 2022

Six African Stars Set To Compete At Beijing 2022

Six athletes from Eritrea, Ghana, Madagascar, Morocco, and Nigeria will compete in alpine skiing and cross-country events at the Winter Olympics.

Six African Stars Set To Compete At Beijing 2022
Six African Stars Set To Compete At Beijing 2022

There will be lots of African athletes competing in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, with competitors from five different African countries expected to compete.

After what was considered the most ‘African Winter Olympics’ ever at PyeongChang 2018, six athletes return to the Games keen to not only participate but also showcase their progress and budding potential in the sport.

Unlike in PyeongChang when eight nations represented the continent across four sports, the African winter athletes in Beijing will compete in Alpine and Cross-country skiing.

Read on for a full guide and profile on each of the Africans competing in Beijing.

Mialitiana Clerc at the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games.
Mialitiana Clerc at the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games. Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Mialitiana Clerc, Madagascar, Alpine Skiing

Mialitiana Clerc is Madagascar’s first female Olympic skier.

She will be the only African woman competing in Beijing after making her Olympic debut at the age of 16 in PyeongChang 2018.

For the youthful skier, it’s no longer only about the experience:

“I’m trying to be the first woman who will be on a World Cup podium and to medal at the Olympics,” she told Olympics.com in an interview.

Clerc, who is now 20 years old, has raced at the World Championships in Are and in the 2019-2020 season, putting up a string of strong performances on the South American Cup circuit and FIS events in Argentina.

She also competed in Europa Cup and World Cup events, which helped her collect enough points to qualify for the Olympics for the second time.

“I feel lucky because there are not a lot of African women in the world of skiing. I try to enjoy and to be proud of myself and get the best results because I’m here for that…”

“I want to be one of the best skiers in the alpine skiing world. And at the Olympics in Beijing, I want to be in the top 40.” – Mialitiana Clerc, Malagasy skier.

GettyImages-895442540
GettyImages-895442540                                  Picture by 2017 Getty Images

Clerc was born in Ambohitrmanjaka, a small village outside of Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital.

She was adopted by a French family when she was one year old, but she maintained contact with her real parents. Even though she despised the cold, she began skiing at the age of three.

Skiing with friends became more enjoyable as she grew older, and the cold became more acceptable as she gained a new appreciation for the mountains around her home in the French Alps’ Haute-Savoie region.

You can read more on Clerc’s story here.

Mathieu Neumuller, Madagascar, Alpine Skiing

Clerc’s Olympic exploits inspired 18-year-old Mathieu Neumuller, who will become the third Malagasy at the Winter Games.

Another skier, Mathieu Razanakolona, was the first athlete ever to represent the island nation at the Winter Olympics at Turin 2006.

Neumuller also competes in slalom and giant slalom and the Mont-de-Marsan native will be Madagascar’s flag-bearer in Beijing.

He’s delighted to get the chance to fly the flag after pursuing a passion inspired by his father, a ski instructor, who’s been helping and coaching him since he was just 3 years old.

“The Olympic Games are a stage in skiing that is exceptional, and [the thought of it] makes my heart beat very fast. A little stress but a lot of joy,” Neumuller told Olympics.com.

He learned his craft at the ‘Club des 2 Alpes,’ and has competed in a number of contests since then, including three World Cup events in France.

For his Olympic debut, the Malagasy has high expectations.

“In Beijing, I aim first of all to exceed my current performance and have a good ranking among the best. What would be exceptional would be finishing in the top 30.”

Samuel Ikpefan, Nigeria, Cross-country Skiing

The skier from the French Alps will ensure Nigeria’s flag flies again after their historic Winter Olympics debut in PyeongChang.

In 2018, Nigeria made headlines when their athletes qualified in skeleton and bobsleigh.

Now four years later the cross-country skier will become the first athlete from Africa’s most populous country to test his speed and endurance on Olympic terrain.

The French-born skier opted to represent Nigeria after his dreams of representing France became impossible in 2011.

Ikpefan, 29, was on the verge of quitting the sport until he discovered the potential to compete as a Nigerian.

In 2018, the former French Youth sprint champion has been authorised to compete for the West African nation. He was ecstatic to don the green and white colors, which he saw as an opportunity to strengthen his ties with his father’s homeland.

“With the food or the music, I have always been immersed in the Nigerian culture,” he told Olympics.com.

He just got a taste of top-level competition in January 2021, when he competed in his first World Cup in Falun, Sweden, where he grew up in the French Alps.

He raced in the cross-country World Championships a few weeks later.

“I am proud to have the chance to represent an African nation at the Olympic Games,” said Ikpefan, who hails from a family of athletes that includes a rugby playing brother, Daniel.

He hopes that his Olympic journey will peak in Milano Cortina 2026, and that he can inspire a new generation of Nigerian skiers.

“For Milano Cortina 2026, I was appointed captain of a team composed of three young skiers that are from Nigeria but live in other countries. [My role was] to explain to them the process and to help them on their Olympic journey.”

You can read more on Ikpefan’s story here.

Samuel Ikpefan

Yassine Aouich, Morocco, Alpine skiing

Moroccans will also have an Olympian to root for at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre.

Yassine Aouich will represent his country at the Winter Olympics for the eighth time.

He is from Ifrane, which is located in the Atlas Mountains and is recognized for its Alpine climate.

He grew up in a region in northern Morocco that holds the record of the lowest temperature ever observed in Africa: −23.9 degrees Celsius.

Aouich, who takes part in giant slalom, achieved his lifelong dream after contesting at the 2020-2021 World championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo and an FIS race in Kolasin, Montenegro.

“I promised my son that I could qualify for the Olympics, so I have to do it, I was also able to train at home because there is sometimes snow in the mountains of Morocco,” he said in an interview with ORF Vorarlberg

Carlos Maeder, Ghana, Alpine Skiing

Carlos Maeder, a Ghanaian, is another debutant to keep an eye on.

He earned a noteworthy qualification and will become only the third Ghanaian to compete in the Winter Olympic Games.

Maeder will also line up in giant slalom. He’s the second Olympian skier from his country after the ‘Snow Leopard’ Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, who competed at Vancouver 2010.

In 2018 Akwasi Frimpong qualified in the men’s skeleton event.

It has been a long chase for Olympic glory for the Cape Coast native who began skiing when he was only three, after he was adopted by a Swiss family.

“Since my mother was alone and could not feed me, she had to give me up for adoption,” he explains on his blogsite.

“I was adopted by a Swiss family and grew up in the heart of Switzerland. Thanks to my Swiss parents, who maintained contact with my mother, I have remained in touch with Ghanaian culture all my life. I travel as much as possible to Cape Coast to visit my big family there.”

In 2017, the Lucerne-based former young player set himself the ambition of becoming an Olympian.

“I was better at football, but skiing was always a part of me. I wanted to qualify for PyeongChang but I didn’t know that the qualification window is two years, so I missed the first year,” he said in an interview with Olympics.com.

Six African Stars Set To Compete At Beijing 2022
Carlos Ghana

“Two years ago, I got an Olympic scholarship which was wonderful, but it’s not easy with the budget I have. I lost one year of qualification [due to COVID-19] and then I was injured and didn’t have enough time. I am a one-man show. I couldn’t [even] afford a coach.”

“It was a long and hard road…It’s something very, very special as an African representing an African country in the winter sports.” – Carlos Maeder, Ghanaian skier.

The 43-year-old hopes that his Beijing achievement would encourage others to pursue their ambitions.

“For me, there is more to sports than just winning. I want to set a good example and show young people in Switzerland and Ghana that you can do anything with the necessary will and effort – ain’t no mountain high enough!”

Shannon Abeda, Eritrea, Alpine Skiing

Shannon-Ogbnai Abeda is another African set to return to the Olympic slopes in Beijing.

Abeda is Eritrea’s first winter Olympian and began ice skating when he was three. Initially, he wanted to be an ice hockey player but was discouraged by his parents who thought the game was too dangerous.

In 2011 he decided to compete for his parents’ birth country in skiing and got the nod for the 2012 Youth Olympic Games. His parents settled in Canada after fleeing war in Eritrea in the 1980s.

“When I was 7 or 8 years old, I drew a picture of myself standing on the podium of the Olympics. As a child you make dreams and you talk about these things, I never expected myself to be here,” he said in an interview with the Olympic Channel in 2018 at PyeongChang 2018 Games.

A weightlifter and a coder, he announced his retirement from alpine skiing just after PyeongChang and even considered switching to bobsleigh.

However, he resumed skiing in September 2021 with the hopes of qualifying for the Olympics and was relieved when he was awarded a quota three months later.

“It’s too surreal and it hasn’t sunk yet…I have officially qualified for my second Olympic Games. About two months [ago], I was close to throwing in the towel,” he posted on Instagram.

“I want to share my story more and use my voice to inspire a future generation of winter Olympians from Eritrea and the diaspora.”- Shannon Abeda, Eritrean skier.

“I hope I can build off my performance at the last Olympics and obtain a better result*. *I, unfortunately, got caught up in the little things at the last games that I did not even consider the bigger picture,” he told Olympics.com

“ I did not really capitalize on my experience in PyeongChang and I got way too wrapped up in competing and forgetting to actually enjoy myself while I was there.”

The alpine skiing events will begin on February 3.

The cross-country events will begin on February 5.

Source: olympics.com

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  1. Ibrahim, I’m proud of you. I pray you reach where ever you want to 🙏🏽🤲🏽📿 I hope to see you…

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