Athletes from tropical countries turn up the heat at the Winter Olympics

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — When the bobsleds started racing down the track, a couple of names stood out: Brazil, Nigeria, Jamaica. Not exactly places you associate with a frozen sheet of ice.  

“I was like, I don’t know, a black guy on ice. I don’t know if that’s something for me,” said Akwasi Frimpong, who is from Ghana. He competed in the skeleton. He came in dead last, but is still the first African in his sport in Olympic history.   

“This is an opportunity for me not to only go after my Olympic dream but inspire millions of people in my country as well,” Frimpong said. 

Twenty-five so-called tropical nations are competing in Pyeongchang, including the Nigerian women’s bobsled team, the country’s first ever Winter Olympians. And it’s no accident these athletes are here. 

Matthew Futterman has covered five Olympics. He says the International Olympic Committee is recruiting athletes in places known more for palm trees than snow skis.   

“This is about selling television rights in those countries, it’s about selling Olympic paraphernalia, it’s about people getting people to tune in to the new Olympic channel,” Futterman said.

Remember the shirtless Tongan from the Rio summer games? He’s in Pyeongchang competing in cross country skiing — even though he had only seen snow once.  

“I learned on roller skis,” said Pita Taufatofua. “But we found ways, we found ways of how could we mimic being on snow without actually being on snow.” 

He came in 114th out of 118 skiers, but these tropical trailblazers say they’re here to show that where you are from does not limit how far you can go. 

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Categories: US & World News, World News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *