Shannon Abeda, Eritrea’s First Winter Olympic Athlete ‘Comeback’ in Beijing

The first Eritrean athlete to enter the Winter Olympics, Shannon-Ogbnai Abeda, returns to compete in Alpine skiing or downhill skiing at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

His first appearance on the world stage was at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

After performing in Pyeongchang, Abeda suffered multiple injuries and 10 surgeries to repair her knee and groin which left her with no choice but to retire from her sport, according to her website.

Eritrean Alpine skier Shannon-Ogbnai Abeda in action during the Men's Giant Slalom competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, February 18, 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Dominic Ebenbichler)

Eritrean Alpine skier Shannon-Ogbnai Abeda in action during the Men’s Giant Slalom competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, February 18, 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Dominic Ebenbichler)

But he returned to skiing in September 2021 and three months later, qualified for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“It’s like a dream, and yet unbelievable… I’m officially eligible for my second Olympics. About two months ago, I almost gave up,” he said.

Abeda was motivated to try the sport as a child after being introduced to it by her sister growing up in Canada, when her parents moved from Eritrea during the country’s civil war in the 1980s.

“When I was 7 or 8 years old, I drew myself standing on the Olympic podium. As a child, we dream, and talk about these things. I never thought I’d be here,” Abeda said in a 2018 interview with The Olympic Channel.

He decided to compete for his parents’ country of skiing in 2011. In 2012, he was given the green light to participate in the Youth Olympic Games. Now, apart from Alpine skiing, the Olympic athlete hopes to qualify as a bobsled pilot or ski race at the Milano Cortina 2026 Games in Italy.

Abeda wants her career achievements to inspire Africans and others to Olympic gold.

“I hope that through my participation in the Winter Olympics, I can pave the way for other people of color to participate,” said Abeda.

“Being one of the few people of color in my sport, it has had an impact on my life. I don’t want other people like me to be afraid to step out of their comfort zone,” he said. [my/pp]