He had never set foot on snow before, but that didn’t stop Venezuelan skier Adrian Solano competing in the Nordic World Ski Championships. First out of the gate for the 10km cross-country event on Friday, Solano immediately lost his balance and proceeded to fall over during the first descent.
Things didn’t really improve after that. Indeed, after an impressive assortment of slips, trips and tumbles, it wasn't much of a surprise to see Solano call it a day after 39 minutes of measured progress. His final time would have been enough for a respectable overall position, albeit only 3.5 of the course’s 10km were completed.
The real victory for Solano was getting to the competition at all. Only able to train on wheels in his home city of Maracay, the Venezuelan had been dreaming about the possibility of competing abroad. His friends and neighbors helped him to save enough money to pay for his flight to Europe, but his plan was almost derailed at the first hurdle.
Arriving in Paris a month before the championships, Solano was meant to board a connecting flight to Sweden and begin preparing for the event by training on the snow. Instead, French authorities stopped him from continuing his journey. Carrying just €28 in cash, immigration officials refused to believe that he was a world-class skier. Solano returned to Venezuela after five days of questioning.
It was then that the budding skier’s story started to receive media attention. After hearing about Solano’s difficulties, Finnish sports and TV personality Aleksi Valavuori set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Solano to pay for another flight to Europe. In around three hours the campaign raised the €2,000 needed to travel to Finand. The total goal of €4,000 was reached soon after that.
“Aleksi was like a guardian angel”, Solano told reporters. As for Valavuori, he had no idea about Adrian’s lack of skiing experience. “At first, I was like, ‘Holy shit, he can’t ski’. But the longer it went on, the more he became a hero”. Not everybody shares Valavuori’s opinion of Solano, who has received his fair share of both ridicule and praise on social media.
Now being referred to as the ‘world’s worst skier’, Solano certainly doesn’t come short when it comes to perseverance. “I fell and did not give up”, he told an interviewer two days after returning to Venezuela. “Not everyone gets up but I got up more than 30 times”.
This spirit was aptly demonstrated during his second and final race, a 1.6km cross-country sprint. Solano’s goal was simply to reach the finishing line. Some time later, he did just that. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear that he finished in 156th (last) place.
Photo Lehtikuva / AFP