Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore will make their Winter Games debut at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. Speed skating, cross country skiing, Alpine skiing, figure skating and two-woman bobsleigh will be the disciplines in which the new athletes will compete. Read about the future Olympians who are thrilled and proud to lead the way for their respective countries.
Ecuador: Klaus Jungbluth Rodriguez, cross country skiing
At PyeongChang 2018, Klaus Jungbluth Rodriguez, 38, will represent Ecuador at its first Winter Games. He is known as the "Tarmac Skier", given his training on roller skis in the city of Guayaquil and now in Australia.
A PhD student in sports sciences at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, Rodriguez began by creating an Ecuadorian Ski Federation from scratch with the help of his National Olympic Committee (NOC), in order to be able to compete in cross country skiing events under the aegis of the International Ski Federation (FIS). He has therefore raced since last season in the Alpine Cup, championships in Chile and Argentina, the Australia Cup and New Zealand Cup, and in FIS races, to finally secure a place at the Winter Games!
He will be in action on 16 February in Alpensia in the 15km freestyle.
Eritrea: Shannon-Ogbani Abeda, Alpine skiing
Canadian-Eritrean Shannon-Ogbani Abeda will not be the first African to take to the Alpine skiing slopes at the Olympic Winter Games, but he opens the way for Eritrea, the East African country where his parents are from. Born in Alberta on 15 May 1996, and having grown up and studied IT sciences in the Olympic city of Calgary, Abeba began his trailblazing career by competing at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck in 2012 which, he says, opened his eyes to the top international level. He did not manage to qualify for the Sochi Games in 2014, but several top 20 places on the FIS circuit over the past couple of years have helped him earn a place at PyeongChang 2018, in the slalom and giant slalom events.
Abeda is realising his Olympic dream and making the country of his ancestors and Eritrean diaspora worldwide extremely proud, particularly in Canada. After carrying the Eritrean flag at the Opening Ceremony, Abeda will be in action in YongPyong on 18 (giant slalom) and 22 (slalom) February.
Kosovo: Albin Tahiri, Alpine skiing
Kosovo made a magnificent Olympic Summer Games debut with a gold medal won by judoka Majlinda Kelmendi in the -52kg category in Rio in 2016. Now it is the turn of Alpine skier Albin Tahiri to gift his country with its first participation in the Winter Games. And we will see him everywhere!
Indeed, he is going to compete in all of the Alpine skiing disciplines, even if he is in fact more of a specialist in the speed events. He says he raced nearly every day in a different event in order to rack up enough FIS points to qualify for the Olympic Games, and finished off the season absolutely exhausted. Albin has skied since he was a child in Slovenia, the country in which he grew up, and where Alpine skiing is very popular. Now he emphasises that his presence in PyeongChang represents more for him and his country, and that this is only the start of what he hopes will be a brilliant future.
Malaysia: Jeffrey Webb, Alpine skiing, and Julian Yee, figure skating
The tropical State of Malaysia is making its Winter Games debut with not one, but two competitors. Chronologically, it was young skier Jeffrey Webb, 18, who secured the first ticket to PyeongChang, in the slalom and giant slalom events at the end of the 2016-17 season.
Very much inspired by his idol, Marcel Hirscher, he was also the first Malaysian to compete at the Asian Winter Games, in Sapporo in 2017. Based in the US, he has skied from a young age. His two races in YongPyong have given him experience at the highest international level.
At the end of September 2017, skater Julian Yee posted on social media a photo of himself in front of the Olympic rings at Gangneung Olympic Park, where he will perform his short and free programmes in the men's figure skating events at the PyeongChang Games on 16 and 17 February. The photo was posted with this comment: "It has been a long, tiring, and meaningful journey. The milestone has been achieved and Malaysia will for sure be at the 2018 Winter Olympics! I've finally made it! Thank you to everyone who has supported me and given me the strength. Without you guys, it would be impossible."
Julian qualified on 29 September when he finished in 6th place in the 49th Nebelhorn Trophy, an international competition that is part of the "ISU Challenger Series" staged in Oberhof, Germany. He is also a four-time Malaysian champion, and winner in August 2017 at the South East Asian Games, organised at the national skating rink in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has emphasised the pride of a whole country preparing to be wowed by its champions!
Nigeria: Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga, two-woman bob
Pilot Seun Adigun and her team-mates Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga grew up and studied in the US, and are all former high-level sprinters. Under the Nigerian flag, Adigun competed in the 100m hurdles at London 2012. Onwumere won medals at the African Games in 2015 in the 200m and 4x100m relay. Omeoga, meanwhile, competed for the University of Minnesota in the 100m and 200m.
In 2014, Adigun turned to bobsleigh with the aim of reaching the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. She recruited Onwumere and Omeoga, and the pioneering African women trained in Houston, Texas, in a wooden luge that they nicknamed "The Mayflower". They then launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the finances needed for their participation in the World Cup (equipment, accommodation, travel expenses), and also attracted the attention of Worldwide Olympic Partner Visa, which lent its support and made them members of "Team Visa". Their journey on toboggans on ice at the IBSF World Cup 2017-18 led to the first Olympic qualification of an African bobsleigh team.
We look forward to seeing pilot Adigun at her best on 20 and 21 February on the track in Alpensia.
Singapore: Cheyenne Goh in short track speed skating
At 18, Cheyenne Goh becomes the first Singaporean athlete to compete at the Winter Games. Based in Canada since the age of 4, she began practising ice hockey, then turned to speed skating. A fruitful decision as now, having competed in four ISU World Cup events with a best result of 20th place in the 1500m in Shanghai, Goh clocked up enough points to allow her to write this page in her country's history.
Her event, the 1500m, is pencilled in for 17 February.