For the first time in the history of Trinidad and Tobago, Team TTO will be represented at a Winter Youth Olympics by seventeen year old alpine skier Abigail Vieira qualifying to compete at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Trinidad and Tobago participated at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympic Games but the games in Lausanne which runs from the 9 to 22 January 2020, marks the first occasion that the twin island republic will have its flag adorned on the slopes in the junior version of the prestigious international competition.
It is truly a momentous occasion according to Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee President Brian Lewis.
“Today is a historic day in the history of the Olympic movement in Trinidad and Tobago,” said Lewis. “It’s an honor and always an honor and a privilege to represent the red, white and black and for the first time, Trinidad and Tobago will enter the opening ceremony of a Winter Junior Olympic Games.”
The eloquent Vieira, who is based in Massachusetts and has been skiing since the age of four, was beaming about her Youth Olympics berth but is not getting overawed with the responsibility on her shoulders of being a pioneer.
“It always seemed like a dream and now that dream is only about a week away,” an excited Vieira told the media. “Skiing for Trinidad and Tobago is something that I find is so unique and the opportunity to ski for a country that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise is just really an honor.”
“Having a part of me that’s shown on the slopes and having people come up to me and me being able to share a side of me that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise, is something I find really important and that I’ve really just enjoyed doing.”
“I would love to grow the sport. Being one of the only people and skiing for Trinidad and Tobago has given me a totally new perspective on skiing and I want other people to experience that as well.”
Alpine skiing or downhill skiing competitions are divided into three categories, Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super Giant Slalom with the Slalom event, which Vieira favors, being the more technical of the three and involving the shortest amount of turns.
Racers on the Fédération Internationale de Ski circuit are ranked based on points and are given 999 points at the beginning of their career and work towards reducing their points to 0. At present Viera is headed into the Lausanne Games on 150 points and 140 points for Slalom and Giant Slalom, however coming face to face with the best in the world is a challenge that she relishes and uses the nerves to keep her in a positive mindset.
“Naturally I’m nervous just because it’s something you want to work hard and you just can’t go in feeling like you have it all worked out,” said Vieira.
“It’s something that I don’t ever think I would want to give up but being nervous is a part of life so if you’re not nervous, you are never going to get anywhere. It’s just natural and for me it’s something that I’ve enjoyed doing.
“I want to be there, I want to work hard and I want to be proud of the results that I get. That might not be first, second or third but if it’s something that I’m proud of and I’m building off of the skills that I have then that’s good for me. “
Training during the winter in Massachusetts during the school term and summer training in countries like Norway and Chile have also not taken away from frequent visits to her parents’ homeland of Trinidad. It’s an upbringing that she believes positions her perfectly to be an ambassador for the red, white and black.
“I feel as much of a connection to Trinidad and Tobago as I do with the US.”
“All of my extended family is from Trinidad and Tobago and my parents and I come here every year. In Massachusetts we eat doubles, my grandparents bring roti and we have hot pepper sauce in our house. It’s as connected as we possibly can be.”
“Honestly I think that coming from a place that’s not seen on the start list so frequently is just a time for people to come up to you and engage in conversation, where you’re from, where your family is from and just speak about the cultures and differences. It opens a whole new conversation.”
Vieira will be joined on the official Team TTO 2020 Winter Youth Olympics team by Lori Ford (Team Official 1 Coach), Ria Vieira (Team Official 2 Coach) and Chef de Mission Richard Vieira.
It was a team that the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee praised and extended its gratitude to President of the Trinidad and Tobago Snowsports Federation, Hamish Hasmath, for facilitating and supporting as his team acknowledged that it was important for Vieira to have people she was comfortable with and who had been working with her since the age of six.
Written by Amiel Mohammed for www.ttoc.org
Photo - TTOC President Brian Lewis congratulates Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Alpine Skier Abigail Vieira