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SONG OF THE SNOW LEOPARD
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March 01, 2010
The slalom racer from Ghana, the luger from India: They do not care for your mocking tone (though they will tolerate, grudgingly, your utter lack of faith in their medal chances)
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March 01, 2010

Song Of The Snow Leopard

The slalom racer from Ghana, the luger from India: They do not care for your mocking tone (though they will tolerate, grudgingly, your utter lack of faith in their medal chances)

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Farooq, then 51, thought that had been his only chance. He wept. Then the Pakistani ski federation changed tack and added funding, and for six weeks in 2009 Farooq was able to take the team to train in Austria. Abbas, now 24, struggled, and Farooq was sure he had wasted his life. He read some Thoreau, rallied. Abbas began to ski like never before. In March 2009 he qualified to ski the giant slalom in Whistler. Pakistan, at last, was in the Winter Games.

"We just went ... insane," Farooq says, his eyes filling with tears. "We were hugging each other. On the Facebook my daughter wrote, 'I am sorry for all the times when I had doubts in my father about achieving this dream.' I know we cannot win a gold, but you know what? We've opened a new vista."

The Snow Leopard knows the feeling. When he failed to qualify for Turin he nearly retired. When he finally qualified for the Olympics last March, he was tempted to quit again. He was tired of lugging his bags across Europe, sacrificing food money for races and race money for food. But his wife, Sena, told him he had to go; he couldn't have struggled all those years just to watch the Olympics on TV.

So Nkrumah-Acheampong went to Vancouver. He arrived intimidated, got over it and decided, "I'm here to destroy the course." He has one ambition in Saturday's slalom: to compete like he belongs. To not finish last. To beat one skier, maybe two, from a country that actually gets snow.

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