Adrian Solano looked every bit a skier when he lined up for a cross-country race at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Finland this week. But then he started moving.
Dressed head to toe in orange, the 22-year-old Venezuelan nearly fell as he tried to exit the starting gate. He wobbled again after he finally got going, only to actually topple over when he rounded one of the course’s first curves. This would happen repeatedly for the next 38 minutes or so until Solano’s time was up. Too far behind the leader, Croatia’s Kresimir Crnkovic, who finished the entire 10-kilometer course in 26:21.5, Solano’s race ended at the 3.5-kilometer mark.
Judging from the width of the smile that stretched across Solano’s face as he slid to his finish, though, you’d have thought he won. And in a way, maybe he did.
Since Wednesday’s performance, Solano has shot to Internet fame. While at first he made the rounds on Twitter for being what many labeled “the world’s worst skier,” Solano has since become a bit of an inspirational tale.
“Maybe I have fallen many times but what really counts is that I will always continue to rise,” Solano wrote on Instagram on Thursday, defending his performance, which by the way, was his first on snow.
It wasn’t intended to be his first time skiing on snow (Solano said he practices in Venezuela using modified roller blades). Last month, Solano tried to make it to Sweden to begin cold-weather training but failed after being deported from France.
“When I got to Paris on 19 January, I explained that I was on my way to Sweden to train,” Solano told the AFP this week. “They did not believe that I ski in Venezuela. I told them that we train on wheels.”
“The police laughed at him,” Solano’s trainer Cesar Baena added. “They said skiing didn’t exist in Venezuela.”
Solano said despite him having an official invitation to train in Sweden and eventually compete in Finland, the police “discriminated” against him based on his appearance and accused him of attempting to immigrate “because things were going badly in my country.”
“I missed a month of practice on the snow,” Solano said this week. “But I am still trying because this is my dream.”
Despite his troubles and less-than-perfect performance, the trip to Scandinavia proved worthwhile for Solano. While he won’t be taking home any awards, he’s made plenty of new friends.
And, yes, he plans to continue on in the sport.
“This motivates my desire to continue fulfilling my dreams and making my goals real,” he said in response to one of his Instagram followers cheering him on. “Let constancy and sacrifice move mountains.”