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Adrian Solano of Venezuela competes on Feb. 23 in Finland. (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo)

World's worst skier proud of his performance


CARACAS — Venezuelan skier Adrian Solano may be the butt of the world’s jokes after hapless slips and falls in the Lahti Nordic World Ski Championships last week, but the 22-year-old cook who had never seen snow and practiced the sport on wheels is delighted with his “marvelous” adventure.

In the trails of British skier Eddie The Eagle and the 1988 Jamaican bobsleigh team, epitomized in the film ’Cool Runnings,’ Solano’s mishaps in Finland went viral, earning him the title of the world’s worst skier.

Video shows Solano immediately losing his balance when coming out of the gate, slipping over repeatedly and tripping over his skis.

Yet, he is proud of his performance.

“I fell and did not give up. Not everyone gets up but I got up more than 30 times,” he said in an interview two days after his return to Venezuela.

“Many people don’t realize that practicing on asphalt is very different to practicing on snow because the snow has a different texture.”

Back with his family in the sweltering city of Maracay where he learned to ski on wheels, Solano said he had long dreamed of competing abroad and that his friends and neighbors had helped him save for a flight to Europe ahead of the competition, giving him time to perfect his technique on snow rather than asphalt.

That flight alone was near impossible in a crisis-stricken country where many, including Solano, earn the equivalent of just a few dollars a month given an economic meltdown that has left many hungry and standing in long supermarket lines.

When Solano turned up with just 28 euros ($29.57) in cash at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport late last month, however, immigration officials did not buy that he was a world-class skier.

He was forced to return to Venezuela five days later, he said. His story caught the attention of Finnish TV personality Aleksi Valavuori who set up a crowdfunding campaign and raised more than 4,000 euros ($4,224) to pay for another flight via Madrid.

Valavuori tracked down Solano, dejected and back in Maracay, and told him he had a second shot at the championships.

“Aleksi was like a guardian angel,” said Solano. “This was my dream.”

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