in Venezuela, 'world's worst skier' proud of his performance
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[February 27, 2017]
By Girish Gupta
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan skier
Adrian Solano may be the butt of the world’s jokes after hapless
slips and falls in the Lahti Nordic World Ski Championships last
week, but the 22-year-old cook who had never seen snow and practiced
the sport on wheels is delighted with his “marvelous” adventure.
In the trails of British skier Eddie The Eagle and the 1988 Jamaican
bobsleigh team, epitomized in the film ‘Cool Runnings,’ Solano’s
mishaps in Finland went viral, earning him the title of the world’s
Video shows Solano immediately losing his balance when coming out of
the gate, slipping over repeatedly and tripping over his skis. Yet,
he is proud of his performance.
"I fell and did not give up. Not everyone gets up but I got up more
than 30 times,” he said in an interview two days after his return to
“Many people don’t realize that practicing on asphalt is very
different to practicing on snow because the snow has a different
Back with his family in the sweltering city of Maracay where he
learned to ski on wheels, Solano said he had long dreamed of
competing abroad and that his friends and neighbors had helped him
save for a flight to Europe ahead of the competition, giving him
time to perfect his technique on snow rather than asphalt.
That flight alone was near impossible in a crisis-stricken country
where many, including Solano, earn the equivalent of just a few
dollars a month given an economic meltdown which has left many
hungry and standing in long supermarket lines.
When Solano turned up with just 28 euros ($29.57) in cash at Paris’
Charles de Gaulle airport late last month, however, immigration
officials did not buy that he was a world-class skier.
He was forced to return to Venezuela five days later, he said. His
story caught the attention of Finnish TV personality Aleksi
Valavuori who set up a crowdfunding campaign and raised more than
4,000 euros ($4,224) to pay for another flight via Madrid.
“Something had to be done,” said Valavuori, speaking from the
Finnish city of Turku. “I knew absolutely nothing. I’d never heard
of Venezuelan skiing.”
[to top of second column]
Adrian Solano of Venezuela holds a press conference at the FIS
Nordic Ski World Championships in Lahti, Finland February 24, 2017.
Lehtikuva/Markku Ulander/via REUTERS
‘HOLY SHIT, HE CAN’T SKI’
Valavuori tracked down Solano, dejected and back in Maracay, and
told him he had a second shot at the championships.
“Aleksi was like a guardian angel,” said Solano. “This was my
Valavuori and an interpreter drove to Helsinki airport to collect
Solano, who marveled at seeing snow for the first time. Less than 12
hours after arriving, Solano was first out of the gate for the
“It was my first experience on skis on snow in my life,” he said. “I
Watching from the sidelines, Valavuori began to realize something
was not quite right.
“At first, I was like, 'Holy shit, he can’t ski,'” said Valavuori,
“but the longer it went on, the more he became a hero.” The video
went viral with both endearment and harsh criticism on social media.
Some Venezuelans are fuming that he embarrassed them internationally
and suspect he was promoted by the ruling Socialist Party. They
point to Instagram photos of Solano with a locally-famous leftist
who dresses like late Argentine guerrilla Che Guevara in military
garb and posing with members of the Party’s youth movement. They
also note he has no photos of himself skiing. Solano says the photos
are old and that he made it to the championships with zero help from
(Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Alistair Bell)
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