Southern Alps: the beautiful story of Richardson Viano, the first Haitian in the history of the Winter Olympics

Born in Haiti, adopted in France and raised in the Hautes-Alpes, Richardson Viano ( years) will become the first Haitian skier to take part in the Winter Olympics, in February 2022 in Beijing.

In Haiti, average temperatures are around 19°C and 30°C. A climate not conducive to the discovery of snow sports. But the country will take part in the Winter Olympic Games for the first time in its history. In Beijing, where the Olympic Games 2022 are held from February 4 to 20, the ” Pearl of the Antilles” will be represented by Richardson Viano, engaged in alpine skiing.

It is not on the two strips of mountains of Haiti that this young man from 19 years learned to slide on powder. He learned everything in the Hautes-Alpes. Born in Port-au-Prince, where he lived his first days in an orphanage, Richardson Viano was adopted by a couple of Italian origin residing near Briançon who put him on skis very quickly. Fifteen years later, here he is not only the first Haitian skier to take part in an Olympic fortnight, but also the first sportsman from the Caribbean.

“We are not very professional Haitians to ski. I feel really excited, I’m looking forward to this moment,” he said, interviewed by BFM DICI. “I don’t have a gift, I don’t have skiing in my skin. I had to work a lot to get there”, he also says in all modesty in an interview for the Official Olympics website.

“I thought it was a joke from a friend”

His performances did not allow him to open the doors of the highly prized French ski team. But Jean-Pierre Roy, president of the Haitian ski federation, comes across him running 2019. This former skier, who also lives in France, set up this structure to defend the colors of the country himself at the Worlds of 2011. With the desire to follow up on this formidable first adventure, he came into contact with Richardson Viano. What does not fail to surprise the latter, who rather expected to practice in the building: “I did not believe it. I believed in a joke from a friend. At the end of the call, I I did some research on the Internet and I discovered that there was indeed a ski federation in Haiti”.

By accepting the challenge, Richardson Viano finds himself propelled onto the international professional circuit. For Silvia Viano, the mother, this opportunity is not only a sporting affair. It also reflects his son’s desire to express his pride in his native country, which generally only makes the news for the extreme poverty of its people and natural disasters: “When he chose, it was really to say : “Haiti, I’m here with you. All of a sudden, we’re talking about Haiti, but with skiing. It’s great”.

A “message of hope” for Haitians

“If I can inspire even the children of the orphanage where I was, it would be more only a personal reward, confirms the person concerned. I want to bring a message of hope for Haitians, but also for young people from other countries in difficulty. You have to believe in your dreams and never give up”.

19e of the giant slalom of the world championships 2021 of skiing , in Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy, Richardson Viano was able to count on the support of French public actors. “There is a beautiful human story, to which we were particularly sensitive, explains Bettina Mathias, director of the Pays des Écrins tourist office. The community of municipalities, the tourist office, the municipality of Puy-Saint- Vincent and his station wanted to accompany this young champion in his first steps towards the Games”. These are scheduled for 13 February at the Xiaohaituo estate.