Six Nations Make Their Winter Olympic Debut
East Timor, Malta, Paraguay, Togo, Tonga and Zimbabwe compete in the Winter Olympics for the first time.
In February 2014, six countries will go to the Winter Olympics for the first time. Here's a look at the athletes representing each nation.
Goutt Goncalves has qualified for the Men's slalom event, making him the first athlete to represent East Timor in the Winter Olympics. Goncalves' mother is from East Timor, which allows him to compete for the country. With the help of his mother, Goncalves began the Federation of Skiing in East Timor. He has picked himself as the athlete to represent it. In June 2013, the International Ski Federation formally recognized East Timor's Federation of Skiing. Now, at age 19, Goncalves will compete in the men's slalom on February 22, 2014.
Malta will be represented by Elise Pellegrin, a 22-year-old Maltese-French alpine skier. Born in France, Pellegrin is allowed to compete for Malta because her grandfather moved from Malta to France. She has qualified to compete in the women's giant slalom and women's slalom. Pellegrin will also be Malta's flag bearer in the opening ceremony.
Paraguay will make its debut at the Winter Olympics with freestyle skier Julia Marino. Born in Bahía Negra, Paraguay, Marino has lived in the U.S. with her adopted American family since she was six months old. She has competed for the U.S., her adopted country, until 2013. Since then, she has competed for Paraguay. Marino will carry Paraguay's flag and compete in women's slopestyle, an event making its debut at the Sochi Games.
Two athletes will represent Togo in the country's first trip to the Winter Olympics. Alessia Afi Dipol has qualified for the women's slalom in alpine skiing. Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean has qualified for the women's 10 km classical event in the cross country skiing competition.
Tonga makes its Winter Olympic debut with luger Bruno Banani. Banani will compete in the men's singles Luge competition. Banani, age 26, has already attracted attention and not for being the first athlete from Tonga to complete at the Winter Games. Banani, whose birth name is Fuahea Semi, has received media attention for legally changing his name to match that of the German lingerie company, Bruno Banani. The company is also Banani's sponsor. About the obvious marketing ploy, International Olympic Committee Vice President Thomas Bach said, "It is of bad taste to change your name to that of a sponsor. That is too much for me. This has nothing to do with proper marketing."
Skier Luke Steyn will be the first athlete to compete for Zimbabwe in the Winter Olympics. The 21-year-old has qualified to compete in two events, the men's giant slalom and the men's slalom. Born in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, Steyn moved to Switzerland with his family when he was two years old. After living and attending skiing academies throughout Europe, Steyn now attends the University of Colorado. Although he does not currently live in Zimbabwe, Steyn visits frequently and hopes to live and work there one day.