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Winter Olympics 2018: From Tonga's skiier Pita Taufatofua to Ghana's Akwasi Frimpong, underdogs to root for

Who doesn't love a good underdog story?

Be it Rocky Balboa or Cool Runnings, the against-all-odds underdog story will always find takers. In real life too, each Olympics is replete with many such feel-good stories of athletes who have overcome monumental odds just to make it to the Olympics.

Take the example of Abebe Bikila, who won the gold medal at the marathon event at the 1960 Olympics and also set a world record in the process. What was extraordinary about Bikila's medal was that he ran the marathon barefoot. Moreover, he was only sent as a replacement for another Ethiopian, who picked up a late injury.

With a few days to go for the Pyeongchang Olympics, here's a list of rank outsiders to root for:

Pita Taufatofua

A combination of pictures shows Pita Taufatofua of Tonga during the Opening Ceremony of Rio Olympic Games (left) and competing in the cross country qualifications. REUTERS

A combination of pictures shows Pita Taufatofua of Tonga during the Opening Ceremony of Rio Olympic Games (left) and competing in the cross country qualifications. Reuters

Remember that Tongan flag-bearer who turned up at the Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony bare-chested and oiled?

That man, Pita Taufatofua, was to participate in the taekwondo event at Rio. His stint in Rio was short-lived as he crashed out in the first round itself. But Taufatofua will also be in Pyeongchang having qualified for the cross-country skiing event. He almost did not make the cut for the 2018 Olympics, having sealed the deal on the last day of qualification.

The Polynesian nation of Tonga is a collection of 170 islands, which is mostly covered with tropical rainforests. In fact, Taufatofua admits he first experienced snow only two years ago. And now he will be walking shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the business.

Pity that Taufatofua may not get to walk at the Opening Ceremony in South Korea bare-chested given the freezing temperatures.

Sabrina Simader

Sabrina Wanjiku Simader will make history in Pyeongchang when she becomes the first female alpine skier to compete for Kenya in the Winter Olympics.

The 19-year-old, who will compete in the Women's Super-G and Giant Slalom events, is based in Austria and made the cut last February at the World Ski Championships in St Moritz.

Kenya, a hotbed for world-class distance runners, has no Winter Olympics legacy and is a country where it rarely snows.

Julian Yee

Julian Yee, a figure skater from Malaysia, will be the second athlete from the Asian country to compete in the Olympics after Jeffrey Webb, who qualified for the slalom event. Julian had to fight against perceptions to make it to Pyeongchang, after all Malaysia has no winter sports culture to boast about. The 20-year-old, who will be Malaysia’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics, eventually moved to Canada in 2016. Julian started racing at the age of four and did most of his training at a shopping mall, which means the size of the skating rink is roughly two-thirds of the size of an Olympic rink.

Nigerian female bobsled team

Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga — all born to Nigerian parents and brought up in the United States — will be the first African team to compete in bobsled at the Winter Olympics. Interestingly, Adigun competed in the 100m hurdles event at the London Olympics in 2012. The trio launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $75,000 (£66,000) last year which would be used to fund their participation at the 2018 Olympics. They reached the target in just 11 months.

Akwasi Frimpong

At Pyeongchang, 31-year-old Akwasi Frimpong will become Africa's first male skeleton athlete to compete at the Winter Olympics.

Born in Ghana, Frimpong's family moved to Holland illegally when he was eight. His running skills impressed the coaches at the Johan Cruyff Institute there. While in the USA to pursue his college education, he got injured which ended his running career. However, he soon found his calling in bobsleigh, the sport in which he represented Holland. He eventually switched allegiances to Ghana, the country of his birth, and took up skeleton, in which he will represent Ghana at Pyeongchang.


Published Date: Feb 05, 2018 22:05 PM | Updated Date: Feb 05, 2018 22:05 PM

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