Canadian-born skier Shannon-Ogbani Abeda has joined the few African representatives at the 2018 Winter Olympics by flying high the flag of his parents’ home country, Eritrea.
21-year-old Alpine skier Abeda made history as the first athlete to compete for Eritrea at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, after scoring results of 26th, 42nd, and one non-finish in his last three races in December, ranked by the International Ski Federation (FIS).
The Calgary-based computer science student has been receiving support from Eritrea and the Eritrean community in Canada since 2012 when he decided to represent the Horn of Africa country at the inaugural 2012 Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
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“Eritrea was a country that fought for independence for almost 30 years, and they’re very proud of me for being able to carry on my roots and my heritage,” he told local media CBC News.
“I want to go in and rank myself up against those people and do my best. My main goal is to put Eritrea on the map,” he added.
Born in Fort Alta, Canada, Shannon-Ogbani Abeda has visited Eritrea twice and the last visit was in 2014. His parents fled the Eritrean War of Independence in the 1980s to Canada.
He told the BBC that he was interested in hockey but his parents forced him to be a skier, a sport he has done since he was three years old.
“Right now my focus is to go to the Olympics, but afterwards I’d like to finish school, do some coaching and get the Eritrean community on some skis,” he said.