Every four years a handful of nations dominate the medal count in the Winter Olympics, and while those nations and their talented athletes deserve to be celebrated, it’s the smaller nations with contingents of ten or less that sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
According to BBC Sports: “There will be… 2,871 athletes from 87 National Olympic Committees competing, seven of which – Dominica, Zimbabwe, Malta, Paraguay, Togo, Tonga and East Timor – are entering for the first time.”
With the Winter Olympics underway, we’d like to focus on some of the underdogs and first-timers who will spread some pride and cheer on the Sochi snow and ice:
* Both alpine skier Alessia Afi Dipol and 19-year-old cross-country skier Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean are representing Togo, a nation that’s never before participated in a Winter Olympics.
* Julia Marino, 21, a dual citizen who holds an American passport, will be Paraguay’s first person at the Winter Olympics. She’ll be booting up for the slopestyle skiing event.
* And then there’s 19-year-old skier Yohan Goutt-Goncalves, who will proudly wave the flag of East Timor — which is also a first for the winter games.
Our best wishes to these athletes and the many others who won’t be the top storylines or main draws of these Olympics. It’s because of them that we’re reminded that winning isn’t everything, that participating on one of the biggest stages in the spirit of international brotherhood and friendly competition is gold enough.