Twenty two Winter Olympics came and went without a Eritrea flag flying. But 23 was the charm and Canada played a big role in the tiny African country’s debut. Eritrea’s lone athlete at the games in South Korea – its first winter Olympian ever – is alpine skier Shannon-Ogbani Abeda.
His parents moved to Canada from Eritrea during the 1980s. He was born in Fort McMurray, Alberta, cut his edges on Alberta snow and now skis in the Banff area.
Now 21, he’s ranked 2,529th in giant slalom by the International Ski Federation. He wouldn’t make the Canadian national team, let alone qualify for the games. He’s at the games because of his Eritrean citizenship. The International Olympic Committee wants to see a diversity of nations and so sets a lower qualification threshold for less represented countries.
That’s not to say Abeda’s not without talent. He competes in ISF races in slalom and giant slalom in North America. And in the Olympic giant slalom he finished in 61st place. And he’s not the only one using his dual citizenship to get into the Olympics. Hungary’s Elizabeth Swaney, is an American born half pipe skier. Her trickle runs down the half pipe earned her a lot of media attention at PyeongChang, mostly suggesting she’s the worst skier at the games.
RYAN REPORT is a frequent web post by Ski Canada magazine’s technical editor, Ryan Stuart.Ryan Report, Winter Games