First Pakistani Winter Olympian Brings Pride to a Small Village
Skier Muhammad Abbas made a little sporting history by registering Pakistan in the Winter Olympics 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The 24-year-old Abbas came in ranked 3,764th in the world in giant slalom. He was hardly a medal threat, and wound up third-to-last among the 81 skiers who finished both runs. But it’s not about that. His ambitions are to soak up the moment and gain a few helpful hints to bring back to his tiny slope and inspire others. But by competing in off-the-beaten-path competitions, the ones the top skiers only attended when they were younger – if at all – he accumulated enough International Ski Federation (FIS) points to meet the Olympic standards. As a young boy in the far north of Pakistan, Muhammad Abbas would find pieces of scrap wood at the nearby air force facility and, with a little help, fashion them into rudimentary skis. He attached them to his feet with rubber bands. These days, Abbas uses Atomic skis and equipment donated to him through his country’s ski federation, along with the Pakistan Air Force. Abbas is skiing for the country of his birth and for the pride of the small, primitive village in which he still lives, deep in Pakistan’s mountainous north. Officially, he is a member of the country’s air force. His job? To ski. When these games began, Abbas walked into B.C. Place as part of a curious fraternity: almost one quarter of the 82 countries at the Vancouver Games are, like Pakistan, represented by a single athlete. Even a month ago, few in his own country knew who he was. That’s changed. Abbas has been the toast of official government receptions.