Born in Haiti, adopted at age three and raised in France, Mackenson Florindo is not your typical Alpine ski racer.
Now 17, Florindo has become Haiti’s first winter Olympian at a moment that coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated his Caribbean island homeland.
Haiti’s sole competitor at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, Florindo finished 51st out of a 77-man field in Monday’s giant slalom at Les Diablerets and did not finish in Tuesday’s slalom.
But just being able to compete and represent Haiti in Olympic competition was all that mattered for him.
“This is a very good moment, incredible,” he said. “I made some friends. The performance was difficult but I am happy with that. This has been a very exciting and important time for me because I didn’t think I would be here.
“When I came here I knew the competition would be hard and I tried my best,” Florindo added. “I know what I have to do to improve and I will work on it.”
Picture of the day at #Lausanne2020 #YouthOlympics— Lausanne 2020 ❄️ Winter Youth Olympic Games 🥇🥈🥉 (@lausanne2020) January 14, 2020
The two Swiss medalists welcomed Haiti’s Mackenson Florindo🇭🇹 at the end of the race, as he was one of the last ones to arrive!
📷@BenQueenborough / OIS pic.twitter.com/Tl1tytFuiA
The skier’s adoptive mother, Valerie Florindo, was especially proud.
“He has done well,” she said. “This is very pleasing because I try to always support him as best I can.”
Florindo was born into a Haitian family in the village of Verrettes, about 60km north of the capital, Port-au-Prince, in 2002. Because his family could not afford to feed and raise him properly, his biological mother dropped the boy off at an orphanage in 2005 when he was three years old.
Six months later, he was sent to an orphanage in France. From there he was adopted by the Florindo family and raised in the mountain region near Grenoble.
Florindo has both Haitian and French citizenship, which he only received in June 2019. Hehas yet to return to Haiti since leaving as an orphan.
“I know I was raised in France but I am Haitian and I am happy to be like that,” he said.
“I have a great family right now so I don’t feel bad really about the whole adoption.”
Florindo, who is coached by his brother Gregory, who is also adopted, works as a mechanic and dedicates most of his monthly salary towards his skiing career.
“My revenue goes mainly to me being in competition and to help buy anything I need for skiing,” he said. “I’m not rich and I get support from people and that is why I can be here right now.’’
Ahead of his races, Florindo and the Haitian delegation took part in a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the massive earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010.
The quake killed more than 300,000 people, according to the Haitian government, and left many more homeless.
“It was a very sad situation,” Florindo said. “I wish it did not happen but now the country is a little bit better than how it was.”
The Haiti ski federation, which was also formed 10 years ago, said: “Years after the beginning of the incredible story, it will be the second breath of a fabulous human adventure for Haiti following the terrible earthquake of January 12, 2010.”