Lebanon has participated in every edition of the Winter Olympics since 1948 except for those of 1994 and 1998. However, this year Lebanon is adding a new sport to its record as skier Samer Tawk is the first Lebanese cross-country skier to ever qualify for the Winter Olympic Games. I’m confused, it says here this year is the first time but what about his participation in PyeongChang?

Tawk’s achievement is noteworthy not only because of his talent and passion, but also because he has gotten so far in a very short time, at a very young age, and with very limited support.

Samer is 19 years old. He was born and raised in Bcharri, Khalil Gibran’s village, which overlooks the Valley of Saints or Qannoubine Valley. The village is a renowned destination for its ski slopes, and the sport itself is very popular among Bcharri’s young population.

For Samer, the sport has been more than just a recreational activity to do with friends. He turned the sport into his passion and this got him all the way to PyeongChang for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Yet, that is not even the main highlight of this adventure. Tawk’s true achievement is that he made his dream come true in just two and a half years, during which he was training passionately despite the lack of support and necessary resources. More so, Samer started as an alpine skier at the age of seven to change just three years earlier to a different field and eventually embark on his journey of corss-country skiing across many countries! This sentence is confusing.

While skiing is already a physically demanding and challenging sport, cross-country skiing requires even more effort and resilience. Skiers move forward by either striding or pushing side-to-side in a skating motion, aided by arms pushing on ski poles against the snow. The former technique is the classic style while the latter is known as skate skiing. This “definition” of the sport was copied almost word by word from Wikipedia. Samer proved his skill and passion in Turkey in December 2017, when he qualified to take part in the 15km freestyle event in PyeongChang later in February. He had to put all his strength into five fifteen-kilometer races in order to qualify and move a giant step closer towards a lifelong dream. In Tawk’s words: “Getting to the Olympics was a far-fetched dream as I was still a beginner back then. But after two years of extremely hard training for long hours, I started to believe in myself and realized that I am already on the road to success. I did it despite the difficulties.”

Despite the considerable support he received from the Lebanese Ski Federation, there was little to no support on the government side. Tawk is now focusing on the 2022 Olympics in Beijing and he’s trying to get the government to adopt a more serious and supportive approach towards ski sports in Lebanon. Skiing is a popular and growing sport that continues to draw talented and zealous athletes every year. Professional training often requires bringing coaches from abroad, making it even more financially challenging for Lebanese athletes who lack government support. Tawk was coached by former Serbian biathlete Aleksandar Milencovic, a cyclist and cross-country skier who has competed in both Summer and Winter Olympics. He is looking forward to train harder for the next Olympics and is very keen on pursuing his dream despite all the challenges.This sentence doesn’t add anything.

Tawk is indeed proud of his achievement, and so are his family, village and country. Yet, that is not the end for him, it is just the start of a long journey nourished by passion and dedication. He aims to become a professional skier and pursue academic studies in physical education.

Already an inspiration to his people and friends, Tawk was himself inspired by the founder of the scout movement, Lord Robert Stephenson Baden-Powell. His ten years with the Bcharri scouts significantly helped him to learn resilience and self-control. He learnt to put all his efforts into his goals and always find a way. His message to his generation is to believe in themselves and never stop dreaming because dreams do come true when you believe enough in them!