For a Venezuelan skier who had only trained on wheels beneath a bright sun, the slopes of Finland proved a mighty challenge, per AP. Adrian Solano wobbled nervously backward as he exited the starting gate at the Lahti2017 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships this week. He fumbled into the white powder after sliding down a small hill. And he tried awkwardly walking up an incline while others raced by him. By Thursday, sports commentators circulating videos (like this one) of his near-comedic cross-country performance online had dubbed him the worst skier alive. Solano, however, teetered along, unfazed. "From here to the Olympics!" he proclaimed in an interview with Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet.
Solano's saga has hit a nerve among Venezuelans and angered the country's highest officials, who are denouncing France for deporting the athlete in January while he was trying to get to Sweden to train on snow. Airport migration officials in Paris allegedly doubted his story, thinking his journey to the slopes was a ploy to leave his beleaguered country. "We will issue a strong statement to the French government for their affront against a Venezuelan athlete," tweeted Venezuela's foreign minister. Stuck back in Caracas, Solano's supporters started a GoFundMe page that brought him to Finland just in time to compete. The only problem: He hadn't practiced skiing on snow, only on wheels in Venezuela's scorching heat. In the first race, a 10-kilometer qualifying round, Solano failed to finish. In the 1.6-kilometer cross-country sprint, he finished last in 156th place. (Read more skiing stories.)