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The African Athletes Participating in the Olympic Games in Sochi

Algeria opening ceremony 615w (att Wikimedia Commons)

French Translation of the Week

Four African nations will participate in the winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia, from February 7-23.  Among them, the "usual" Moroccan and Algerian teams will compete, but there will also be a team from Togo and a skier from Zimbabwe.

Quatre nations africaines devraient participer aux Jeux olympiques d'hiver à Sotchi, en Russie, du 7 au 23 février. Parmi elles, les "habituelles" délégations marocaine et algérienne, mais aussi une équipe togolaise et un skieur zimbabwéen.

This article has been translated from French. Click here to read the original version on Jeune Afrique.

Although more accustomed to summer olympic sports, Africans have not been as absent as could have been expected in the winter games.  Since 1984, with the participation of the Senegalese skier Lamine Guèye in the winter games of Sarajevo, no winter games have passed without athletic representation from the continent.

For the Sochi olympics, which will take place from February 7th to the 23rd, four African countries will be represented: Morocco, Algeria, Togo, and Zimbabwe.  The Moroccans and Algerians have already participated in the olympic games, but this is the first time for both Togo and Zimbabwe.  South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, and Ethiopia, present in the Vancouver olympics in 2010, will not take part in the Russian games.


The Moroccans are well-seasoned in the Olympic games, having participated five different times (1968, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2010).  In the last Olympics in Vancouver, Morocco only had one representative: the alpine skier Samir Azzimani.

In Sochi, the Moroccan team will include two skiers – one male, one female.  The first, Adam Lamhamedi, 18, has recently made a name for himself in the world of skiing.  Before becoming an adult, this Canadian-Moroccan from Quebec decided to ski for Morocco, the country of his father.  In 2012, he caused became a sensation by winning the gold model for the junior Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, becoming the first African to achieve such an honor.

For this first Olympics, Adam Lamhamedi will compete in the slalom and large slalom events.  His little brother, Sami, 16 years old, will follow.

On the female side, Morocco will be represented by the skier Kenza Tazi.  At 17 years old, this Moroccan discovered skiing in the French Alps, where she is currently in a sports high school close to Albertville.  In Russia, she will participate in the slalom and large slalom events.


In 2010, at the age of 17, the cross-country skier Mehdi Selim Khelifi was the only Algerian present at the games in Vancouver.  At the time that we write these lines, it is difficult to know if the skier, announced to be the only representative of his country at Sochi, will have the new honor of wearing the green and white flag at the opening ceremony.

While he has repeatedly achieved the qualifying marks to attend the games, Mehdi Selim Khelifi is still waiting for the call from the Algerian Ski Federation.  Time is pressing, as the deadline for commitment is January 19th.  Interviewed by El Watan on January 13th, Mehdi Selim Khelifi indicated that he had tried several times to get into contact with the president of the Federation, without success.


For its debut in the winter Olympics, Togo will probably be the most important African team in Sochi.  The cross-country skier Mathilde Petitjean Amivi, French-Togolese and training in the French Alps, qualified to participate in the 10km classic.  She will be accompanied by Alessia Afi Dipol, Italian-Togolese, who will compete in the slalom alpine ski event.

A second Togolese cross-country skier, Awa Tomety, still waits to qualify and potentially join her two compatriots in Sochi.  Unfortunately, Gervacio Madja, the first Togolese skier to have represented his country in a large international competition (world championships in 2013 in Italy) will not be able to travel to Russia due to injury.


Like Togo, Zimbabwe will be represented for the first time in the winter games in Sochi.  The only athlete is Luke Steyn, a 20 year-old skier.  Born in the capital, Harare, his family moved to Switzerland when he was only two years old.  In a statement to a journalist at the New York Times, he said that even though he was young when he left Zimbabwe, he still feels "very attached" to his country.  In Sochi, he will defend his national colors in the slalom and large slalom events.

Article translated by Allie Stauss, Staff Intern for the Africa Program at the Wilson Center.

Photo of 2010 Olympic opening ceremony in Vancouver, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and US-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial US-Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in US-Africa relations.    Read more