Timor learns a new word: Skiing

Mon Feb 17, 2014 1:22pm EST
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By Alan Baldwin

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Many a true word is spoken in jest and East Timor's first Winter Olympian, Alpine skier Yohan Goncalves Goutt, is a case in point.

What started as a joke - competing at the Sochi Olympics for a tropical country whose language Tetum does not even have a word for skiing - has turned into something much more serious.

On Saturday, on Russian snow and under floodlights, the Paris-born skier will make his Olympic debut in the slalom.

Son of a French father and Timorese mother, who was a child refugee to Australia from the southeast Asian country also known as Timor Leste, Goncalves Goutt started skiing in the Alps at the age of two.

"When I was eight a family friend called Bill made a joke and said 'Oh, this kid one day will go to the Olympics,'" the 19-year-old told Reuters in an interview during a rest day in the Alpine program.

"And in my head it just stayed and matured and then became a real story.

"So when I was 10 I told my mum I wanted to represent Timor at the Winter Olympics. My mum supported me and we created the Timor ski federation. It took a long time, roughly five years."

A former Portuguese colony northwest of the Australian city of Darwin, East Timor declared its independence in 1975 but was then invaded by Indonesia. One of the poorest countries in the world, it only became a sovereign state in 2002.   Continued...

Flag-bearer Yohan Goncalves of Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste leads his country's delegation during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games at Fisht stadium February 7, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder