Note: Although the official site of the Vancouver Olympics does not list her, according to NBCOlympics.com Chirine Njeim of Lebanon will also be skiing in this year’s Olympics.
I joined KABOBfest during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics (and my first post was on Arab women participating), so it would seem only appropriate for me to talk a little about Arab hope for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
That hope rests on one man.
Samir Azzimani is the sole Arab participant of the 2010 Winter Games, representing Morocco in two events: slalom and giant slalom. Azzimani, 31, is the first Moroccan to join the Winter Games since 1992, when Morocco sent 12 participants to Albertville, France, in two sports (alpine and cross-country skiing), several of whom were disqualified almost immediately. One skiier fell down and got lapped several times. Morocco also sent competitors to the 1968, 1984, and 1988 Winter Games. In 2006, Sarah Ben Mansour, a Belgian-Moroccan woman aimed at becoming the first female Winter Olympian from Morocco (and the continent of Africa), was injured before the Olympic trials, dashing her hopes at participation.
Samir Azzimani’s story is an interesting one: A foster child, he had the opportunity to attend a holiday camp in the French Alps, where he learned to ski. Upon returning to Morocco, his hopes of becoming an Olympic skiier were dashed, but he didn’t give up, raising money throughout his teens and twenties and eventually qualifying for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Like Sarah Ben Mansour, he was injured prior to the Games and unable to participate.
Although most of Azzimani’s training was in France, Morocco is not without skiing facilities. Oukaimeden, approximately 150km from Marrakesh, is one of Africa’s premier ski resorts, with modern facilities (apparently, you can also hire a donkey to take you up the slopes), and Mischliffen, just outside of the university town of Ifrane, offers smaller slopes.Filed Under Jillian, olympics, Samir Azzimani, Sarah Ben Mansour, skiing, Vancouver, Vancouver 2010, winter Olympics