A Colombian athlete will make his debut at the Winter Youth Olympic Games; 17-year-old Michael Poettoz will compete in slalom and giant slalom and will be the only representative of Colombia at the YOG Lillehammer 2016, which will run from 12 to 21 February, in Norway.
The fact that Michael will represent Colombia is quite unusual since only one skier in the modern history of the Olympic Games, Cynthia Denzler, competed for this South American country, at the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010.
Michael was born in Cali, the third largest city of Colombia, and was adopted by Michel and Cécile Poettoz, a French couple, when he was 21 months old. It was in Les Carroz d'Araches, a ski resort in the French Alps, where Michael spent his youth and developed a love for skiing. “My dad taught me how to ski when I was three years old and, since then, it has become my passion,” Michael said.
Although he was raised in France, a big part of Michael’s heart is in Colombia. He has a step-sister, Carolina, who was also born in Cali and adopted by the Poettoz’s.
“Colombia has always been a huge part of my life. I was born there and that’s why I decided to compete under the Colombian flag in a very natural way. Sport is also an opportunity to have other people know about Colombia.
“My adoptive parents have constantly been in touch with my biological mother and I have been raised with much love for Colombia.”
Poettoz was only 12 years old when he started to win medals in Alpine skiing competitions in Les Carroz. His coaches immediately acknowledged Michael’s potential and, in 2014, he made his first appearance outside France, in competitions organised by the International Ski Federation (FIS).
“I love to compete and try my best in order to succeed and excel in everything I want to become. I always wanted to practise a high-performance sport and participate in big events, and skiing gave me the opportunity to do it.”
In June 2015, Michael made a step forward to reach the highest level of skiing competition and joined the Orsatus Ski Racing Club at Méribel, a high-performance training centre where many international athletes train in the world’s largest ski area. Méribel is located 20 km from Albertville, where Michael studies.
“My training sessions, my resting periods and my diet are very strict to make sure I can improve and get to the top level of my ability. In addition, I practise cycling and do various exercises that help maintain my muscle strength.
“The school where I study has set up a special programme for high-performance athletes, which allows me to focus on skiing during the training season.”
During the European winter, Michael trains at Orsatus, and during the European summer, he travels to South America to practise in different types of snow and keep developing his skiing skills.
“Last August, I spent four weeks training in Argentina and Chile, including eight FIS races, and improved my FIS ranking points. I am very happy with my progress, and Lillehammer 2016 will be my first step towards achieving my long-term goals.”
Michael aims to finish in the top-10 at Lillehammer. His long-term goals include competing at the Saint Moritz 2017 Ski World Cup in Switzerland, and participating at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, in South Korea in three disciplines (slalom, giant slalom and super-G).
Colombia is a far-from-perfect place for skiing. It has a few areas in the Andes which are very difficult to access due to their height and hard surface conditions, placed on glaciers at almost 5,000 metres. All this makes skiing not a very popular sport in Colombia.
Fortune, however, has knocked on Michael Poettoz’s door and opened opportunities for a youngster who has great potential and a love for this sport. Lillehammer might be the very first step to make Michael’s dream come true.