Youth Olympics bring ancestry into focus for Eritrean Alpine Skier
“It feels really good [to ski for Eritrea],” he said. “It helps me explore who I am. I’m really proud of my heritage. There are a lot of stories about my family, how they came to Canada, and how it all leads up to this day.”
The story began when ABEDA’s father, Walday, left Eritrea during a time of regional war and conflict in the mid 1970s, escaping to a Sudanese refugee camp. At the age of 15, Walday moved to Saudi Arabia and then on to Canada to forge a new life.
For Shannon ABEDA, this meant a very different upbringing to his father. He is a dual citizen of Canada and Eritrea and started skiing at the age of three.
He carved his first turns at Sunshine Village and now trains at Nikiska, host mountain for Alpine events at the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympic Games.
ABEDA, who lives in Calgary, quickly embraced the sport and now holds World Cup legends Ivica KOSTELIC (CRO), Didier CUCHE (SUI) and Bode MILLER (USA) among his many Alpine Skiing idols.
While ABEDA is hoping to sharpen his technical skills on the Slalom and Giant Slalom courses in Innsbruck, he is setting himself high standards for the Super G on Saturday, January 14 and Super Combined on Sunday, January 15.
“My hope is that, in the speed events, I can medal or get some good results so I can get some good points to take back to Canada,” he said.
The sporting competition will, however, provide only a portion of what ABEDA will take away from the Games. He has already reconnected with family members from all around the world who have contacted him after seeing his story in the Eritrean national media.
“I’m still meeting relatives I’ve never met before, and my family is really large,” he said. “The other day I stopped in Frankfurt and met an uncle who I had never met, and I’m getting all sorts of phone calls from all over as well.”
ABEDA refuses to look too far into what his sporting future may hold, and is instead revelling in the cultural aspects of the here and now.
“This is one of my first international events so I hope to make new friends and get to know a European slope, and make the most of it.”