Jamaican Bobsleigh? No, Ethiopian ski team!

Sat Feb 15, 2014 4:21am EST
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By Ben Young

(Reuters) - There is no precise word for 'snow' in the Amharic language of Ethiopia, but that did not stop the Teklemariam brothers from establishing the country's first ski association and opening the doors to winter sports for young African athletes.

Drawing sporting inspiration from Ethiopia's world-beating long distance runners and hoping to represent Ethiopia for the first time in the Winter Olympics, Yoseph, Benyam, and Robel Teklemariam founded the Ethiopian Ski Association (ESA) in 2005.

Robel competed at the 2006 and 2010 Games in Turin and Vancouver and has raised awareness of winter sports to Ethiopians around the world.

"Most Ethiopians that we meet or have commented online think it's really cool and are often amazed that their country has a skier that represented them in the Winter Olympics," Yoseph said in a telephone interview.

"Most never paid any attention to the Olympics, other than our famed runners in the Summer Olympics."

Born in Ethiopia but raised in the United States, the Teklemariam brothers were exposed to winter sports at North Country School in the village of Lake Placid.

"Our first winter in New York City in 1983 was the first time we saw snow. But it wasn't until Lake Placid that we saw real heavy snowfall," said Yoseph said.

From 1983 to 1993, their mother worked as a United Nations official in New York, and in one of the world's most isolated countries North Korea.   Continued...

Ethiopian skier Robel Teklemariam poses during training on the street of the capital Addis Ababa February 3, 2010. REUTERS/Irada Humbatova