Kenya's first Olympic alpine skier appointed UNEP Mountain Hero

Sabrina will become the first Kenyan alpine skier to compete in the Olympic Games

The 19-year-old athlete, christened Africa's "snow leopard", is also set to become the first Kenyan alpine skier to compete in the Olympic Games when she takes to the slopes in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 12.

“UN Environment is delighted to announce the appointment of the Kenyan skier Sabrina Wanjiku Simader as the UN’s first Mountain Hero,” said UN Environment’s Executive Director Erik Solheim.

“Sabrina’s voice will be important to help draw attention to emerging environmental issues in mountain regions such as climate change, waste, and loss of biodiversity.”

Skiing

Simader was born in Kenya but grew up in Austria and was trained by her stepfather, who owned a ski lift and would take her out on the slopes.

She loves skiing and spending time in the mountains. She also has a passion for species such as the iconic snow leopard, as her racing suit clearly demonstrates.

“Our mountains are changing due to climate change, which is causing glaciers to retreat and threatening biodiversity, including species like the iconic snow leopard. I wanted to become more engaged to protect these fragile and vulnerable regions,” says Simader.

“I train in Schladming in Austria, a region that has already witnessed the impacts of climate change, including the shifting of the ski season, which impacts winter tourism.”

Simader will be also lending her support to the United Nations Wild for Life campaign, which aims to end the illegal wildlife trade. Her kindred species: the snow leopard.

Living my dream

She told Reuters that carrying the Kenyan flag during Friday's opening ceremony was “really nice and emotional."

“It has always been my dream, but then this dream came true and that I‘m here is simply incredible," Sabrina told Reuters television as she prepares to take to the slopes on Monday.

She will become only the second Kenyan to compete at the Winter Games after Philip Boit, a former middle distance runner who participated in cross-country skiing at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Games.

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