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After 90 years of the Winter Olympics, Zimbabwe was represented for the first time in the 2014 games by alpine skier and University of Colorado sophomore Luke Steyn.
The 20-year-old London resident was born in Harare, Zimbabwe where he resided for three years before moving to Switzerland and then France. In 2000, Steyn’s family moved once more before finally settling down in London.
He started skiing recreationally in France.
“But it was not until I moved to London in 2000 that I started to see the competitive side of the sport,” Steyn said. “As an after school activity I chose skiing, which we did on a local dry ski slope.”
At the beginning of his young career, Steyn saw several perks of competing as an alpine skier.
“I guess at first my motivation behind skiing was that I got to skip a load of school,” Steyn said. “But once I got a bit older and got more serious about the sport, I realized that it created a lot of different paths and opportunities for me. For example, I don’t think I would be going to a university in the States if it was not for the fact that I wanted to ski.”
Fast forward to 2014, when Steyn became the first ever athlete to represent the African country in the Winter Olympics. As the country’s only competitor in the games, Steyn was awarded the honor of carrying Zimbabwe’s flag during the opening and closing ceremonies.
“The opening ceremony was a wild experience,” he said. “I remember being in the crowd at the opening ceremony in London during the Olympics, looking down at all those athletes thinking, ‘Damn, that’s cool.’ But when it’s you looking up at all the people, that’s something special, especially being the flag bearer.”
On and off the slopes, Steyn said that he had a memorable experience in Sochi thanks to the support he saw from his country.
“I still feel very connected to Zimbabwe, and to be chosen to represent them was amazing,” he said. “I had so much support from everyone in Zimbabwe, which I think amplified my whole experience. I think because winter sports is such a new concept for Zimbabweans, it created this excitement which made me immensely proud to be representing them.”
Steyn went on to describe his favorite parts of his trip to Sochi.
“The days off at the Olympics were actually the best days,” he said. “I would try and watch as many events as possible. While I was there, I managed to watch three hockey matches, including the men’s semi-final. I went to watch the men’s half pipe final, which was absolutely crazy.”
Though he had a good experience, the road there wasn’t exactly easy.
“It was a big challenge to get to Sochi,” Steyn said. “Being a one-man team is not easy. I spent a lot of my time organizing everything from team uniform to flights and all the other things involved with getting there. In terms of training, I spent two months in the summer training in New Zealand with Treble Cone Race Academy (TCRA).”
Steyn did not end up medaling in the Olympics, but he said that is just part of roller coaster experience of alpine skiing.
“There are a lot of ups and downs in ski racing,” he said. “You can get pretty down when you are not skiing well and the conditions are tough. But you have to remind yourself how lucky you are to be doing the sport.”
Although he said it is a tough sport and despite not medaling, he still sees the many rewards.
“Already this year I have visited three new countries because of my skiing, which for me is the best part. On top of that, when it all comes together on those rare days throughout the season, that is the most rewarding part of the sport. It makes all the time, energy and money worthwhile.”
Contact CU Independent staff writer Alissa Noe at Alissa.firstname.lastname@example.org.