It may sound like a follow-up to the popular Hollywood movie Cool Runnings, but one Arab country’s bid to be represented at the Winter Olympics is far from big screen fantasy.
A country with only a handful of snow days a year and hardly a mountain in sight, Jordan, like Jamaica in the hit movie, has become one of the more unlikely newcomers to the world of Winter Sports, and despite narrowly missing out on qualifying for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next month, the skier leading their charge says it is only a matter of time before they make the world grade.
Under an initiative from the Jordan Olympic Committee, spearheaded by its President HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein, who is also a Member of the International Olympic Committee, the country has cast its net far and wide to look for more athletes to represent the Kingdom.
And their search not only found a Dubai-based skier called Suhail Azzam, it kick-started the process for Jordan to be one of the few Arab countries to become officially recognised by Skiing’s world governing body, the FIS.
“Jordan officially became an FIS member in November 2017, which gave me a late chance to try and qualify for PyeongChang by competing in China, Turkey and Iran,” said Suhail, 34.
“We worked really hard and came extremely close with some decent points on the board. Unfortunately, I was not able to get the necessary 140-point average to qualify for the Winter Olympics in February.
“We came really close. In the last six months, my coach helped me to trim my time from 60 seconds (Asian Games) to 18 seconds behind first place. That’s a lifetime, but I still needed to be six seconds faster than I am today to reach our Olympic goal.”
But there is some consolation. Suhail’s times have been good enough to become the first Jordanian to book a place in a World Championship, and his debut will come in Sweden in 2019.
“It’s been one hell of a journey,” he said. “Consequently, with my ranking and points, I have qualified Jordan for the FIS World Championships in Sweden next year. We have successfully put Jordan on the Winter Sports map and for the first time are FIS members with points on the board.
“In every race I competed in, Jordan was represented professionally and honorably. We spread the word, and will now refocus our efforts towards developing a platform for the young generation to rise up. I hope that what I have done here will one day inspire at least one Jordanian, Palestinian, or any Arab skier to follow their dreams regardless of what obstacles lie ahead.”
Suhail says he and his family have made considerable sacrifices over the past six months to make the grade, but he says that the support will only make him stronger moving forward.
“I have put in too much effort, time, and money to call it quits,” he said.
“I want to continue Skiing for Jordan and will attempt qualifying again in 2020 for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“I’m so close, I can taste it. Just needs more work, which given the time, I believe I can do it.”