It was 42 seconds of pure pantomime. That was pretty much the consensus shortly after footage of Venezuelan skier Adrian Solano taking to the slopes in the Nordic world ski championships in Finland surfaced online.
After the starter’s whistle sounded, Solano, decked out in an orange ski suit, was shown losing his balance and landing rather spectacularly on his backside. Trying to get back up the slope, Solano put one ski awkwardly in front of the other before tumbling over again, as other skiers raced down the hill past him and, presumably, over the finish line.
Of course, the first question anyone watching that footage would have asked themselves was: “Is this a joke?”
But it wasn’t a joke. Not to Solano, anyway. The athlete (who worked as a cook) had been training hard for the event, except never on actual snow.
As he told local Venezuelan media, he learned to ski on wheels in his hometown of Maracay and dreamed of competing abroad. But when Solano turned up at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport with the equivalent of just under $A40, his story of being a world-class skier wasn’t believed so he was sent back home.
Finnish TV personality Aleksi Valavuori got wind of Solano’s plight and set up a crowdfunding campaign to fund another flight. Less than 12 hours after arriving back in Helsinki, Solano was competing in his first international cross-country event.
“It was my first experience on skis on snow in my life,” he said. “I was scared.”
Watching from the sidelines, Valavuori began to realise something was not quite right and that Solano actually couldn’t ski. It was then that he experienced something of an epiphany.
“The longer it went on, the more he became a hero,” he said.
As for Solano, whose look of utter dejection only lifts the moment he finally crosses the finish line, he can hold his head high.
“I fell and did not give up,” he says. “Not everyone gets up, but I got up more than 30 times.”
You might have heard of the term the “good fight”. It comes from a verse in the Bible: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” (2 Timothy chapter verse 4, verse 7). Note that the emphasis is on striving forwards and facing adversity (even if the ‘fight’ is only with ourselves).
Adrian Solano will never be remembered as a great skier, but in choosing to focus on getting up rather than falling down, he became someone we could all look up to.