Utah Grad Becomes First-Ever Winter Olympian To Represent Saudi Arabia

Feb 12, 2022, 11:39 PM | Updated: Feb 13, 2022, 9:28 am

Fayik Abdi of Team Saudi Arabia skis during the Men's Giant Slalom Run 1 on day nine of the Beijing...

Fayik Abdi of Team Saudi Arabia skis during the Men's Giant Slalom Run 1 on day nine of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at National Alpine Ski Centre on February 13, 2022 in Yanqing, China. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

BEIJINGFrom free-riding on the slopes of Snowbird and Alta, to ski racing in the Olympic Games in just a matter of months, one man competing in Beijing has quite the story.

Six months ago, he’d never even skiied in a professional race. Now, he’s skiing against the best racers in the world on the biggest stage in sports.

He may call the middle eastern desert home, but Fayik Abdi learned to love skiing at an early age.

“I learned how to ski in Lebanon when I was 4 years old. My mom was a skier and she taught me how to ski,” Abdi said.

And it was that love of skiing that took him from boarding school in Florida to college at the University of Utah.

“I wanted to get closer to skiing and try to find my way in skiing,” he said. “I was taking online classes just so I can ski and work at the ski resorts and all that kind of stuff. I was skiing 120-plus days a season.”

It’s all that time on the slopes in Utah that propelled him to his unlikely position today — in Beijing as the first-ever Winter Olympian to represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“Just after I graduated, I came back to Saudi to try to do something with skiing in Saudi. My friends used to always tell me there’s no correlation between Saudi and skiing, and that kind of pissed me off, so I came back after I graduated and was like, how am I going to build this bridge basically.”

Connections Fayik made in the world of sand skiing back home led him to a role skiing in a film for a new snow skiing resort in Northwestern Saudi Arabia.

And it wasn’t long before his country noticed.

“While I was there, I got a call from the CEO of the Winter Sports Federation. I didn’t even know it existed. They talked about going to the Olympics, which was like, in 11 months basically. I didn’t know how serious they were about it. And then, about two months later, they called again and said, you know, we’re really serious. Look for a coach,” Abdi said.

So he did. And his journey to the Olympics began.

“We started in August of 2021,” he said.

It’s been a whirlwind, globetrotting adventure so far.

Abdi started training in Austria. Then, traveled to Switzerland and Dubai. Back to Austria for a few weeks, and on to Sweden, where in November, he entered his first ever ski race.

More races followed in Montenegro in December, where he was able to score enough points to qualify for the Games.

“February 2021, I couldn’t even image being in this situation,” Abdi said. “It’s the first time anyone goes to the Olympics from Saudi Arabia, or the Gulf in general. So, I don’t even know what I think about it. Really? I mean, I’m still not even. Yeah, I don’t even know what to think.”

Abdi’s event, the men’s Giant Slalom, started Saturday night.

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Utah Grad Becomes First-Ever Winter Olympian To Represent Saudi Arabia