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These tropical countries are taking part in the Winter Olympics for the first time

Key Points
  • Five tropical countries are taking part in the Winter Olympics for the first time ever in 2018.
  • The participating athletes, who have their roots in those countries, share a common theme: Many have moved and are training elsewhere.
These tropical countries are taking part in the Winter Olympics

A year-round balmy climate is hardly conducive for skiing and ice-skating, but tropical countries are now making their presence felt in winter games.

Taking part for the first time ever in the Winter Olympics Games are six countries — five of which are located in warmer climates: Ecuador, Eritrea, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore.

The athletes who are participating have one thing in common: Most of them are not based in the countries they are representing, and are training elsewhere.

Those five nations, along with Kosovo, are participants at the Winter Games, involving 92 countries and 3,000 athletes.

Here's how these unlikely countries made it to snowy Pyeongchang.


The South American country is represented by cross-country skier Klaus Jungbluth Rodriguez, who fell in love with the sport while studying in Norway.

The 38-year-old is now pursuing a PhD in sports science at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. He will be competing in the 15 kilometer freestyle skiing.

Klaus Jungbluth Rodriguez of Ecuador competes in the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships on February 23, 2017 in Finland.
Matthias Hangst | Getty Images

Rodriguez founded the Ecuadorian Ski Federation with the help of the country's National Olympic Committee and has raced in international competitions before this foray into the Olympics.


Alpine skier Shannon-Ogbani Abeda, a Canadian-Eritrean, will be representing the African country.

He was born in Canada, after his parents fled their home country due to a war.

The 21-year-old will be participating in giant slalom and slalom skiing.

Abeda, like his fellow athletes from the warm-climate countries, hopes to promote his wintry sport.

"Right now my focus is to go to the Olympics, but afterward I'd like to finish school, do some coaching and get the Eritrean community on some skis," he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


This Southeast Asian country is represented by two athletes.

Born in the capital of Kuala Lumpur, Jeffrey Webb will compete under the Malaysian flag for alpine skiing. The 18-year-old moved to the U.S. at the age of five.

Webb's attempt to represent the country gained momentum after a Malaysian ski association was formed in 2013. He will take part in the giant slalom and slalom events.

Julian Zhi Jie Yee of Malaysia competes in Four Continents Figure Skating Championships on January 27, 2018 in Taiwan.
Atsushi Tomura | ISU | Getty Images

Figure skater Julian Yee was introduced to the sport by his mother — a former official at the Ice Skating Association of Malaysia — and started doing his turns in an indoor rink. Now, his training takes place primarily in Canada.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak gave a shout-out to the two last week on Twitter.

"Good luck to Julian Yee and Jeffrey Web who will be competing in the #WinterOlympics 2018. I am confident that they will bring glory to the country!" Najib wrote in Malay.


Three women will compete in bobsled for the country.

The trio of Nigerian-Americans are former competitive sprinters. One of them, pilot Seun Adigun, who recruited the other two for the attempt, had also competed in the London Summer Olympics in 2012.

Nigeria's women's bobsleigh and skeleton team members Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, Akuoma Omeoga and Simidele Adeagbo attend a welcoming ceremony for the team in the Olympic Village in Pyeongchang ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
Kirill Kudryavtsev | AFP | Getty Images

Setting their sights on the 2018 Winter Games, the three set out to learn bobsled.

Initially, it seemed like an impossible dream. The team started training in October 2016 by pushing a wooden cart in a sports center.

"I was trying to do my research," Akuoma Omeoga told NBC TV affiliate KPRC. "Because I didn't know what bobsledding was."

Beating expectations, success soon followed with their story capturing public imagination — the three have raised $75,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to finance their bold plan.

Also making history is Simidele Adeagbo, who represents the country in skeleton. She is also a former track and field athlete and only started training for the winter sport in recent years.


The island nation in Southeast Asia will be represented by 18-year-old Cheyenne Goh, who was born in Singapore but moved to Canada at the age of four, where she learned to ice skate.

She will take part in the women's short-track 1,500 meter skating race.

Singapore speed skater Cheyenne Goh skating during a training session at an ice rink in Singapore.
Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

The sport is gaining pace in Singapore. Some 10 hopefuls in the national team train twice a week in the country's only Olympic-sized rink.

The coach for the national team is four-time Olympics gold medalist, Chun Lee-kyung, a South Korean who is based in Singapore.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that figure skater Julian Yee now trains primarily in Canada.