Meet Kenya’s first professional Alpine skiier, Sabrina Wanjiku Simader. Very well known in the skiing world and even the German speaking sport’s world, but little is known about her to the rest.
Mkenya Ujerumani recently sat down with Ms. Simader and she shared with her passion and love for skiing, her challenges and her hopes for the future. She even took time to share some encouraging words, for young people that find themselves in a world where they are a minority.
What struck as most about this young lady is her confidence, she’s not apologetic for being different nor for wanting more for herself. With her shy laugh, you begin to understand that it takes more than just a cute face to reach where she has, it takes determination, which you can read from her face when she shares about her desire to go professional in this sport and to be one of the best in the world. “I’m different, but I want people to remember me for my exceptional performance and not just for having a different skin”.
Sabrina moved with her mother to the Alpine region in the north of Austria 14 years ago, at only the age of 3 years old. After her parents separated, her mother got remarried thus the move. Her step-father, quite involved in the skiing organisation and having two of his children already professional skiers, got Sabrina into training at only 3 years old. And as fate would have it, Sabrina fell in love with the sport, never to look back. Although she is quite sporty and good in swimming, golf and bike riding, skiing remained her first love. When asked if she would ever go professional in any of the other sports, her answer is clear “Nope”, she answered without skipping a bit.
She’s now registered represent Kenya at the Youth Olympics in Norway early next year. She sounds excited as she shares the details about it. “I definitely want to be in the Top 20. I want to show Kenya has more than just marathon runners, Kenyans can also skii”.
She’s clear about one thing, she’ll represent Kenya well. She has to win and not just in Norway, but also in the upcoming competitions in St. Mauritz in 2017 and the Olympics in South Korea in 2018.
I try to find out her experience so far, skiing isn’t your typical African sport and in Austria, there must be even fewer Africans training or taking part in the competitions. “In the beginning people would stop and stare, it was uncomfortable. Most don’t know you, but are skeptical on your capabilities wondering if you’ll be any good. I’m used to it now and I prefer to shock them with my performance.”
Her advice to young people interested in charting through the path less traveled, “Believe in yourself, don’t worry about what others think of you, you can’t live your life to please others. Do what you’re passionate about.” And that is exactly what she’s doing.
Her parting words to the Kenya Athletics Association, “Please support upcoming athletes in other sports and not just the traditional ones”. To follow Sabrina’s progress and find out where to go support her, check out her Facebook Page here.
Sabrina will not be the first Kenyan to represent Kenya at the Winter Olympics when she qualifies. Kenya was first represented at the winter olympics in 1998 in Nagano by Philip Kimely Boit. Boit and his friend Henry Bitok had started out as marathon runners when Nike sponsored a project to get them to learn how to skii. Nike financed this project from 1996 until 1999. Boit ended his skiing career in 2011.
There has been another group of Kenyan marathon runners that were being trained by Anni Friesinger to become professional skiers, but that was only done for an VOX TV show. Afterwards Ms. Friesinger got pregnant and the guys returned to Kenya and that story ended like that. (Read: Kenyan marathon runners learning how to ski: Real Cool Runnings. )