5 Most Obscure Countries Participating In The 2014 Winter Olympics
5 Most Obscure Countries of the 2014 Sochi Olympics
There will be a record 88 nations competing in the Winter Olympics in Sochi in a few weeks, and while the Games will likely be dominated by the traditional winter lands of Canada, Germany, USA, Norway and the hosts, Russia, let's give some love to the little guys. All five of those countries listed will send more than 130 athletes to compete on the greatest stage of winter sports, but a whopping 53 participating countries will have athletes in numbering in the single digits.
Browse through the qualified countries and you will find many countries that will raise an eyebrow, making for an interesting two weeks of competition. These qualifiers from non-traditional winter sports countries form the most compelling of storylines. How did these athletes from places without snow or ice get to the grandest stage in sports?
Many times, these athletes moved to countries that feature the winter elements and represent their prior homeland. Other times, these Olympians from wacky lands learn the sport in one nation but can trace their ancestry back from a family member and represent their heritage. Then again, sometimes it is just hard work and determination.
One of the most notorious examples of an obscure country competing in a Winter Olympiad was 1988's Jamaican Bobsled Team. Gaining even more fame by the team portrayal in the 1993 feature length film “Cool Runnings,” Devon Harris (not Derice Bannock) led the team from a tropical Caribbean island without a flake of snow or a sniff of ice, to the finals of the four-man bobsled competition.
In today's world, a Jamaican bobsled team does not seem all that bizarre, and the home of Usain Bolt will be back in Russia’s tropical city of Sochi, competing in the two-man event after missing out in Vancouver four years prior.
While the world knows Olympic javelin thrower Leyrn Franco (seen above) for her runway model looks as much as her athletic ability, the world will be introduced to a new female competitor on the Olympic stage in Sochi. Julia Marino, who was born in the South American nation but was adopted by an American family, will make Paraguay's Winter Olympic debut in the women's slopestyle event of the freestyle skiing discipline.
Tonga may be well respected when it comes to the sport of rugby (the South Pacific nation of just over 100,000 beat the Americans at the 2007 Rugby World Cup), but its Olympic debut has already been criticized by the fresh-faced IOC president Thomas Bach. Why?
Because the lone Tongan qualifier, luger Bruno Banani, changed his name from Fuahea Sumi to its current calling, which is the name of a German lingerie company. Banani altered his moniker for marketing purposes, but the new German IOC leader called the name change "bad taste."
Nepal has something of a tradition in the Winter Olympic event of cross-country skiing. Well, sort of.
Jay Khadka (seen above) was the first athlete from Nepal to compete in the Winter Games in 2002. Khadka passed the torch to countryman Dachhiri Sherpa, who has competed and finished no higher than 92 in the Torino and Vancouver Games but has achieved iconic status in the sport of ultra-marathon. Sherpa still owns the course record for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (a 103 mile race through the Alps) with a time of 20 hours and five minutes, set in 2003.
Mexico is once again solely represented in the Winter Olympics by Hubertus von Hohenlohe (seen above), who may be the most interesting athlete in Sochi. Von Hohenlohe is a descendant of German royalty and has a grandmother who is half Mexican, making the quintessential Renaissance man eligible to compete for Mexico.
What has von Hohenlohe done in his 54 years (yes he is 54!) of living? Well, he founded the Mexican Ski Foundation in 1981, competed in Sarajevo three years later, and has qualified for five Olympic Games since. The royalty is also a businessman, photographer and a pop singer who goes by the stage name "Andy Himalaya" and "Royal Disaster."
1. Cayman Islands
From one multifaceted cross-country/ultra-marathoner from Nepal, to the many-sided 54-year-old pop singer/alpine skier from Mexico, to the versatile alpine skier/rugby stalwart from the Cayman Islands. Enter Dow Travers, who will be making his second Winter Olympics appearance for the Caribbean British Territory.
Travers was born in Cayman Islands and went to boarding school in London before becoming a four-time All-Ivy Leauge rugby player at Brown University. For Vancouver, Travers trained for 60 days among all his other pursuits (like being a member of the Cayman Islands national rugby team) to qualify and finish 69th in the giant slalom. Travers will be back in the giant slalom and has also added the slalom to his schedule in Sochi.