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Why Richardson Viano Going to the Beijing Winter Olympics is Unique

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Richardson Viano is on a mission not just to pursue his skiing passion but also to change the perception of his country of birth, Haiti. There’s more to the country than the usual poverty-stricken narrative the world hears about. Viano’s ambition came after he got the opportunity to represent Haiti in the sport. 

However, things weren’t always like this for him. In this article, we detail his journey to the Beijing Winter Olympics.

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Richardson Viano’s Early Years

Richardson on the mountains skiing. Source: Instagram

Richardson Viano was born in 2002 in Haiti. However, when he was just one and a half years old, his parents abandoned him. Viano was taken to an orphanage where a French couple found him and adopted him. 

Viano left Haiti for France with his foster parents. They lived in the French Alps, and this is where Viano’s passion for skiing was ignited. 

His father, Andrea Viano, was a skiing instructor and taught him the ropes. He did well as a junior and wanted to represent France but didn’t get the opportunity. 

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Representing Haiti

Viano representing Haiti. Source: Instagram

Viano contemplated quitting the sport due to not getting the chance to represent France. However, the opportunity to represent Haiti came his way. 

The skier didn’t know much about Haiti’s skiing landscape so when he was told that the president of the Haitian Ski Federation, Jean-Pierre Roy, wanted him to represent the country, he didn’t believe it.

It took him a Google search to realize that Jean-Pierre was also a skier and represented Haiti. He was one of the first people to do so and founded the federation after the 2010 earthquake. He aimed to pull people together and use the sport to provide a positive spin in the face of a calamity. 

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Viano met Roy and accepted his offer to ski for Haiti. In 2019, he got his passport and switched to representing the Caribbean nation. He’s grateful for this as it helps him to get closer to his country of birth.

“I got back in touch with the orphanage where I came from and I am proud to show them my success. I want to go back there to see my roots and especially to give dreams to young people through sport and its values.”

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Going for Competition

Richardson Viano’s dream of competing at the highest level came to pass at the 2021 World Championship in Cortina. He finished in 35th place but got enough points to qualify for the Beijing Winter Olympics. 

When he went down the hills during the men’s slalom, he became the first Haitian to compete at the event. He finished in the 42nd position in his first run and the 33rd in the second run. 

He described the moment as “a great pleasure and a big opportunity”. That said, he realizes that the number of black skiers in the event remains low. This can be attributed to various factors, including geography, which limits people’s exposure to the sport and financial constraints. 

It’s a battle that Roy understands but says that these factors shouldn’t prohibit people from joining the sport. Further, it explains why he’s spending time looking for skiers outside Haiti in the hope of changing the way the world looks at Haiti.

Richardson Viano is just getting started. He has a long way to go in his career, and as he does that, he will inspire many black people and Haitians to think about something other than the problems they’re experiencing back home. 

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