It was just a few years after the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990 that Njeim started to race competitively. With the national ski federation in a shambles, the national Olympic committee plagued by corruption and most of the skiing infrastructure destroyed by fighting, she left home at the age of 16 and settled in Utah, going to school in the morning and to the mountains for training in the afternoon.
hope they will come in sports that are more natural to Lebanon, like swimming, shooting, fencing and wrestling, Karami said.
The 28 year old skier made history in Salt Lake City in 2002, becoming the first Lebanese athlete to participate in the Winter Olympics, where she carried her country flag in the opening ceremony in a contingent that otherwise contained only officials from Lebanon Olympic Committee.
These days, violence has ebbed and the only real links to the desert are Arab tourists from countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia hitting the slopes of the country six ski resorts, with a season that generally runs from December through April.
Over the years, Njeim has become her own coach and her own fitness consultant. She prepares her own skis and course reports before races. Her support network comprises her father, a merchant in chemical products and her only sponsor spending an average Nike Hoodie 2018
don have enough money for our best skier to train year round, on the slopes and off the slopes, Salameh said. There are about 20 Lebanese skiers competing internationally in four disciplines.
While train only two, three months a year, there will be no champions, Salameh said.
was like a deer in the headlights and I remember every second of it even though my results were nowhere near the top, said Njeim, who has lived and trained in the United States over the past decade. She graduated from the Rowmark Ski Academy and earned a scholarship and bachelor degree at the University of Utah. She has now settled in Chicago, with the support of her parents while she looks for a job.
FARAYA, Lebanon When three time Olympian Chirine Njeim hits the slopes in the United States or Europe, somebody inevitably asks the questions.
Njeim doesn have a close relationship with the national federation and says it makes competition tough, for Lebanon, and Lebanon acting like I don exist. changes in sports leadership, and Sochi most likely her last Olympics, she wants to race there with ease, leaving the burdens of the past behind and celebrate crossing the finishing line as if she won a medal.
$75,000 a year for equipment, travel, racing fees and lodging and her mother, her biggest fan and often a sports psychologist. Living so far away, they mostly have to encourage their youngest of four children over the phone.
did not talk to each other, much less competed against one another after the war, Lebanon sports minister Faisal Karami said. getting better and we are trying to improve in all sports. knows it will likely take a generation before the country will produce champions and even then, they not likely to winning medals in skiing.
Despite overwhelming support for their daughter, Njeim parents, Najah and Raymond, rarely see her race although they have cheered her on at two Olympics in Vancouver and in Salt Lake City.
Njeim hopes to be among them, qualifying for her fourth Olympics.
are trying to do our best to reach qualification and try to be the one representing Lebanon at the Sochi Olympics, Chamoun said after a recent FIS race in Faraya, the best equipped ski area in Lebanon, with 53 miles of trails northeast of Beirut. and other parts of Asia.
skiers fight for spots in Sochi to race for only Arab country in Winter Olympics
While she never finished an Olympic race among the top 30, she has won honours at some Nike Pullover Crewneck lower level events and a smaller FIS race, and once even shared a podium with Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Vonn. Her biggest achievement up to this point is a bronze at the 2005 South American Cup in Chile.
feel like the bobsled team from Jamaica, said Njeim, referring to the guys who inspired the movie Runnings at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. tell them we have the sea and the beaches, mountains and snow and four seasons, and it makes me feel good, because not only do I compete for my country, I also get to show it off. isn on the list of things that usually come to mind when one tries to imagine life in Lebanon, a small Arab country on the Mediterranean. The long civil war tends to dominate the western perception of the place, not skiers racing down the Faraya Mzaar mountains, just an hour away from the capital.
been such a struggle to be an athlete at previous Olympics and races, but to Sochi I don want to go with any baggage, Njeim said. will just go there, give it all and race in all events for myself, my family and my country.
Unlike the Summer Olympics that have witnessed increased participation of athletes from Middle Eastern countries over the past decade, Lebanon is the only Arab country capable of fielding athletes in Winter Games.
You from Lebanon? Where do you ski there, in the desert?
in Vancouver, clocked the second Nike Men Pullover
Chamoun also raced at the world championships in Schladming last month, finishing 88th in slalom and 84th in giant slalom.
a great feeling and we are really proud even though we know we have no chance of winning medals, said Charbel Salameh, the president of Lebanon ski federation. He hopes to send at least three skiers to Sochi next year.
Earlier this month, she successfully defended the titles in slalom and giant slalom at the national championships, which were staged in The Cedars, Lebanon highest ski resort at an altitude above 6,600 feet. Jacky Chamoun, Njeim fellow Olympian Nike Hoodie Womens Gold
and third fastest times in the two races.
we go outside Lebanon, it very hard for us to ski on long, long slopes, Chamoun said. are really steep and icy and we are not use to these conditions. an annual budget of $200,000, the federation cannot afford to send skiers to training camps in Europe.
hard, especially at important races, like the Olympics, Njeim said. am always on my own, when I travel, when I train, before the race and after the race. I am a one girl team. remains the skier to beat in Lebanon, although the competition is getting tougher as more young skiers aim for Olympic selection.
It not just skiing that lacks funding and facilities. Sports generally haven been a major priority as Lebanon focused on recovering from the devastation caused by 15 years of civil war.
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