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Developing Skiing in Haiti
When Haiti was subject to a disastrous earthquake in January 2010, an estimated population of three million people were affected. At that time, there were no thoughts on sporting activity to help strengthen the nation, even less on snow sports. Although mountainous, Haiti’s physical geography features a tropical climate and therefore no snow.
Some ski fans around the world might remember the appearance of Jean Pierre Roy, a Haitian skier who competed in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) in 2011.
After a short break, FIS Newsflash continues its series of presenting activities of the various members of the global ski family. Thierry Montillet who founded the Haitian Ski Association (Fédération Haïtienne de Ski = FHS) in cooperation with Jean Pierre Roy provides an insight into the work done in Haiti. He is serving in the roles of technical delegate and coach, as well as being responsible for communication, event organization and finances.
FIS Newsflash: When did the Ski Association start its activities and what were your first steps?
Thierry Montillet: “The Haiti Ski Association developed its activities in September 2010. Our work has so far been based on voluntary action organized by five people using their own financial resources.
When becoming an associate member of FIS in November 2010, our Ski Association had three main goals:
1) Send the first Haitian competitor to the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) 2011 just one year after the disastrous earthquake.
2) Integrate Haitian athletes for the first time in the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi (RUS) in 2014
3) Develop an annual festival which joins ski and generosity for Haiti: The "Haiti Hope Ski Cup"
FIS Newsflash: In the process of reaching these goals, which challenges did you encounter?
Thierry Montillet: “Our main first challenge was to be on time for the Garmisch-Partenkirchen World Championships in 2011. Starting from zero, our team consisted of only few people with little experience in international skiing. We did not only have to manage the difficult administrative procedures, but also prepare our sole competitor Jean Pierre Roy, 47 years old, President of FHS, for the race.
Secondly, it was a challenge to succeed in creating publicity about Haitian Alpine Skiing. It was important that the media covered our story and we spent much time providing information, interviews and autographs during the event. This coverage helped the world’s population and Haiti to forget about the earthquake, diseases, etc. for a moment. Indeed, the media created a beautiful story showcasing our dream to compete in the World Championships. In the end, WE REALLY DID IT! Haiti scored 78th in the slalom race!”
FIS Newsflash: So, among the FIS disciplines, your current focus is on Alpine Skiing?
Thierry Montillet: “Currently, our major focus remains on Alpine Skiing because it is the only discipline we really know. In future, we would like to develop more disciplines like Snowboard and Freestyle Skiing which match the characteristics of Haitian people who are fresh and open-minded. But it is a little early yet, despite establishing first contacts, we will have to organize our activities progressively. It takes time to develop; FHS is only 2 years old.”
FIS Newsflash: What are your future goals with regards to the promotion of skiing in Haiti?
Thierry Montillet: “On the short-term, we are focusing on the following goals:
1) Organize the "Haiti's Hope Ski Cup (HHSC)" in January 2013 to coincide with the third anniversary of the disastrous earthquake. We consider that our event is a festival and skiing is part of it. We are currently talking to some resorts but it is not easy because we are lacking finances to support this idea. If we succeed, there will be communication in the media. This will not only promote ski sports, but also encourage generosity for Haiti.
To name an example of further events, in April 2012, we organized the first Haitian Ski Championships (picture). There were eleven Haitian competitors (and more than 40 other competitors) for a slalom and giant slalom race, enriched by a Haitian concert at night. One of the champions of the French Ski Team was forerunner of the giant slalom race. There was good media coverage on national French TV (M6, click here to view the video) and diverse radio stations talked about Haiti and skiing.
2) Have a second Haitian competitor in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming (AUT) 2013. It will be Benoit Etoc, younger and better at skiing than Jean Pierre Roy. We hope he will be ready on time. Jean Pierre Roy will compete again at his second World Championships, older, but quicker... He is training every day.
3) Organize our first FIS Master’s race in 2014
4) Have the first Haitian athlete in the Olympic Winter Games in in 2014
In the long term, we will increase our activities with regards to children as they represent the future of FHS. This will include two periods composed of two different actions:
Period 1 (next 10 years): We are looking for young Haitians who are living near mountains or who are already skiers. Due to the earthquake, many of them were adopted and now live in different countries. As an example, we discovered three children in France and would like to help them to develop and represent Haiti in future ski sports. This will re-establish the link between them and their home country which was torn apart by the earthquake. To do so, a first step includes approaching and collaborating with National Ski Associations.
Period 2 (next 20 years): If the first period succeeds and if we can achieve enough financial resources, we would like to allow Haitian children who are still located in their home country to develop in ski sports. For doing so, we will have to organize four or five training sessions per year in countries featuring favourable snow conditions. For developing future competitors, we will need to establish further cooperation with regard to training and financing.
Then, in the future, perhaps, we will have new competitors who can reach a top 50 position which could possibly become true before 2020.
If we arrive at this point, the earthquake of 2010 will only rest a bad memory with the nation of Haiti standing up again. We can't say we will develop Skiing in Haiti, but we will develop Skiing FOR Haitians!”
To find out more, visit http://haitiski.org