Eritrea’s first Winter Olympian, Shannon-Ogbnai Abeda, is making a comeback in Alpine skiing at the 2022 Beijing Games.
His first appearance on the global stage was in the Pyeongchang 2018 Games in South Korea.
Then, multiple injuries and 10 surgeries to repair his knee and groin left him with no choice but to retire from the sport, according to his website.
But he resumed skiing in September 2021 and qualified for the 2022 Winter Games three months later.
“It’s too surreal, and it hasn’t sunk [in] yet. … I have officially qualified for my second Olympic Games. About two months [ago], I was close to throwing in the towel,” he said.
Abeda was motivated to try the sport as a boy following an introduction by his sister while growing up in Canada, where his parents moved from Eritrea during the country’s civil war in the 1980s.
”When I was 7 or 8 years old, I drew a picture of myself standing on the podium of the Olympics. As a child, you make dreams, and you talk about these things. I never expected myself to be here,” Abeda said in a 2018 interview with The Olympic Channel.
He decided to compete for his parents’ birth country in skiing in 2011. In 2012, he got the green light for the Youth Olympic Games. Now, along with Alpine skiing, the Olympian hopes to qualify as a bobsled pilot at the Milano Cortina 2026 Games in Italy.
Abeda wants his career achievements to inspire Africans and others to reach for Olympic gold.
”I hope that through my participation in the Winter Olympic Games, I can pave the path forward for other people of color to participate,” Abeda said.
”Being one of the very few people of color in my sport, it has had an impact on my life. I do not want others like myself to be afraid of stepping outside their comfort zone,” he said.