The lone member of Kenya's Olympic team is a 19-year-old skier who used crowdfunding to help her train

  • Sabrina Wanjiku Simader will be the lone Kenyan at the Winter Olympics.
  • Simader qualified for alpine skiing at the 2017 World Championships, but needed some help to get there.
  • Simader launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover travel, equipment, and training costs and appeared to meet her goal.

When the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang open on Thursday, Sabrina Wanjiku Simader will be the lone athlete representing Kenya.

Simader is a 19-year-old alpine skier whose path to the Olympics was improbable, from picking up the sport to having the money to train.

According to the BBC’s Yemisi Adegoke, Simader’s father owned a ski lift and took Simader to the ski slopes. Her father trained her, and as she got better, her family moved to Austria to continue working on her dream of making the Olympics. She spent most of her life in Austria but still identifies with her Kenyan heritage.

However, according to Adegoke, Simader had trouble getting proper funding from the Kenyan National Olympic Committee, something Simader said she believes stems from a lack of awareness about the cost of the sport.

Simader turned to crowdfunding, launching a campaign titled (translated from German) “Ski race in leopard dress” on the website “I believe in you.”

“I am very close to realising my great dream: to participate in the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea’s PyeongChang in February 2018!” Simander wrote (translated via Google).

“Unfortunately, the Kenyan Olympic Committee does not have a lot of money, so you can not pay for my mum, which is a tremendous support to me.”

Simader laid out the costs of what she needed to do, detailing where the money would go. She needed approximately €11,100 ($US13,500). Here is what she wrote for costs.

  • “EUR 2,000 – for travel expenses to Korea for my mum Sarah
  • “EUR 2,400 – for excess baggage and various travel expenses to PyeongChang
  • “EUR 2,200 – for food and subsistence costs of my team in Korea
  • “EUR 1,400 – for hire of training equipment (radios, snow drills, etc.) during the Olympics
  • “EUR 3,111 – for travel expenses to more distant races. Because despite my great sponsors and outfitters, I can only afford travelling to races that can be reached with the team bus. For air travel to distant races such as Scandinavia, USA or Japan, the money is not enough.”

Simader launched the campaign while trying to qualify for Pyeongchang. According to the BBC, her performance at the World Championships in 2017 helped her qualify – her highest finish was 24th in the super giant slalom.

Simder said she was happy the Nigerian women’s bobsled team also made the Olympics. Additionally, she’ll be accompanied by Philip Boit, who competed in cross-country skiing in the 1998 Olympics and was the first Kenyan to ever make the Winter Olympics.”

“It’s great not to be alone as an African competing,” she said. “I’m happy the other guys can compete and show [the world] what Africans can do.”

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