All hail first Haitian at Winter Youth Games
The sorrow of a decade ago was forgotten for just over a minute Tuesday as there were massive celebrations at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Games, sparked by the people of Haiti.
Ten years after Haiti was rocked by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake which killed thousands of residents and did severe damage to the country’s economy, they can now boast of having their first Winter Youth Olympian.
A huge level of optimism filled the cold air at the Les Diablerets Centre as 17-year-old Mackenson Florindo created history by gracing the Olympic stage.
Just like that, the January 12, 2010 tragedy was placed on the back burner and all eyes were fixed on the debutant.
One could not tell that he didn’t reach the podium. Despite finishing 51st out of a 77-man field, fans swarmed Florindo and snapped photographs as if he had won gold.
The conditions were perfect, the snow was flawless, but regardless of his admirable performance, Florindo clocked 2.42.09 combined in the men’s giant slalom and was way behind the winner, Austria’s Philip Hoffman.
“It’s a very special moment for me,” said Florindo, who was born in Haiti but moved to France at the age of three.
He told Nation News: “The performance was difficult but I am happy with that. This has been a very exciting and important time for me because I didn’t think I would be here. I started skiing three years ago and I won’t stop now.”
The adopted teenager, coached by his brother Gregory Glasson, said being the first athlete to represent the Caribbean nation at the games was arguably his proudest moment so far.
“I’m extremely proud of this. Haiti is not very known for having athletes in snow sports, so I think right [now] this is a big accomplishment,” he said via a French translator.
But the road to Switzerland has not been straightforward for Florindo, who has to work as a mechanic to ensure he can compete.
“My revenue goes mainly to me being in competition and to help buy anything I need for skiing. I’m not rich and I get support from people and that is why I can be here right now at the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games. The biggest challenge for me is that I work right next to the ski training area and I could not have the best performance because I had to work. It is sad being right next to the skiing and then can’t do it because I may have a job to do,” he said with a beaming smile.
Florindo added that he hopes to have a maiden appearance at the senior Winter Games in the future. (AGB)