Sabrina Wanjiku Simader finished 38th out of 44 in the women’s super-G in the Pyeongchang Games but the 19-year-old made the record books — as the first Alpine skier from Kenya to compete in a Winter Games.
Simader follows Philip Boit, a cross-country skier who debuted at the 1998 Games in Nagano and who until now was the only Kenyan represented in the Winter Olympics.
“Today I finished my super-G race with the 38 position and I enjoyed it so much!” Simader wrote on Facebook.
While Boit grew up in Kenya and took up skiing after running, Simader moved to Austria as a 3-year-old when her mother, Sarah, married an Austrian. Her step-father, Josef, who operated his own ski lift, encouraged her to ski.
“I learned it there and I fell in love — not at the beginning, but afterwards,” she told Reuters. At first she thought skiing too cold.
Her skiing heroes, according to her Olympic profile, are Boit and U.S. Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, who won a bronze medal in the women’s downhill in what was likely her last Olympics. Simader has a new inspiration too, Czech skier Ester Ledecka, the surprise winner of the super-G, who beat the defending champion, Austria’s Anna Veith.
“It was so cool and so emotional, also for me, because I mean — a Czech girl wins the Olympics, and nobody expected that before,” she told reporters, according to Reuters. “I hope I can also surprise some other people in the next race.”
Simader also skied the women’s giant slalom but did not finish.
“Thank you for all your wishes for my Giant Slalom race, unfortunately it wasn’t really my day,” she wrote on Facebook. “But that‘s [what] sport is about... sometimes you win and sometimes you fail. Luckily I didn’t hurt so much…!”
According to Reuters, she raised money for her equipment, training and travel to Pyeongchang through crowd sourcing. The decision to represent Kenya was easy, said Simader, who filled Kenya’s single Alpine skiing spot.
“I never want to leave my motherland,” she said, according to her Olympic profile. “It was my step-father's dream to have a Kenyan [in the Winter Olympics]. And mine, too. Kenyans are really impressed. They have been really supportive and that gives me power."
As for Boit, he was afraid Kenya’s participation in the Winter Games might end with him.
“When I see Sabrina skiing it makes me very happy,” he told Reuters. “Now I say to her, lift the sport of skiing in Kenya higher than where I lifted it.”