With no wintery snow, skiing is not a sporting staple in Kenya but the exploits of Sabrina Simader Wanjiku have captured the imagination of the East African nation.
Simader represents the country at the ongoing World Ski Championships 2021 in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy that started on Monday with the skier known as “Snow Leopard” taking part in three disciplines – Women’s Alpine Combined, Super G and Downhill.
“My goal is to show my fullest potential and to be as fast as I can possibly be,” Simader, whose favorite event is Super G, told reporters in Nairobi.
She carved a name in the sport having previously competed in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018 in Giant Slalom and Super G. Before that, she finished top 25 in all her events at the Youth Winter Olympics, Lillehammer 2016.
Simader’s progression in the sport that sees her train outside the nation she represents has been hailed by retired Kenyan distance running icon, Paul Tergat.
“She is certainly someone who is making our country be known around the world,” said Tergat who now heads the National Olympics Committee- Kenya (NOCK).
“Having been recognized and appointed in 2018 as a UN environment ambassador as well, it greatly underscores the often-stated fact that Kenya’s sportspeople are the biggest assets of promoting the country,” Tergat added.
The former world marathon record holder is in Italy to support Simader in a bid to showcase the country as a sporting force outside distance running that is more identifiable with Kenya.
Tergat pledged that NOCK would support Simader in her bid to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics next year.
“We are also happy to note that we have gotten a lot of interest from other Kenyans participating in winter sports and welcome them to intensify their training so that they can represent Kenya in more international events,” the five-time World Cross Country champion noted.
Kenya has participated in Winter sports before, albeit in cross-country skiing.
Phillip Boit represented Kenya at three Winter Olympic Games, Nagano 1998, Salt Lake City 2002 and Turin 2006.
He continues to mentor younger athletes and was the Chef-De-Mission of Pyeongchang 2018 where Simader took part.