Hi Reddit, I am Eritrea’s First Winter Olympic. I have qualified for the Beijing 2022 games! AMA
Hello Reddit, My name is Shannon-Ogbnai Abeda and I am an alpine skier representing Eritrea. I competed in the last winter games in 2018 and I am now on route to 2022. I am excited to go again but more or less I am nervous this go around. After a brief hiatus and some reflection, I decided to come back as I did not feel I ended my career on the right note. My Olympic event will be the last of my career as an alpine skier and I will be transitioning into a full-time career.
I currently train out of Invermere, BC, CANADA and spend part of my time between Calgary, Lethbridge and now Toronto. I am in my last year of my undergraduate studies completing two degrees in Computer Science and General Business Management. I do contract software and video/photography work over the summer & fall to pay for my training fees.
If you like, you can follow my journey on instagram shannonabeda_
Proof: Here's my proof!
Edit: I see that there's a typo in the title.. my bad!
Edit 2; Hey everyone! Thank you for your questions.. I did not expect this many so hang tight I will respond to you as soon as I can. Just eating food right now! I also want to thank those that are also asking difficult and challenging questions. It is allowing me time to reflect and really think about it. Again thank you all for your support
Edit 3: Hey everyone, I am back! Will be answering questions for the rest of the evening!
Edit 4: I guess there's a few really good questions.. so I stick around for a bit
Edit 5: Signing off for tonight.. will answer some question tomorrow morning! Thank you guys.. this has been very fun and you all have some great questions!
Edit 6: Alright I am back! I will answer some questions throughout the day as I’m on the road for a bit. I did notice there were a few political questions that were left last night and I have to set record straight. I am very well aware of the sensitivity light about these games and Eritrea, but as an athlete my primary focus is to compete. I am not a prop nor do I have government affiliation of any kind. I am not knowledge enough nor am I in the position to make a comment. Some of you have ask respectfully however there has been quite few aggressive comments and my inbox was also spammed with some threatening message which I do not appreciate. Unfortunately I cannot comment on these questions and you have the understand position that most people going to the games are in.
AHAHAHA! Someone asked me this 4 years ago in a previous AMA.
I do not and I may consider that this go around.
Would you like an egg in these trying times?
I would like many eggs actually
What drove your decision to switch from Bobsled back to Alpine?
The biggest problem was the pandemic. I started as pilot, but I could not get the appropriate training due to border restrictions and even BC not allowing non-canadian athletes to train at their facilities. It would have costed me upwards of ~20k to go to Europe and I could risk that with my school. Also had a difficult time finding appropriate brakemen to slide with me.
Another part is that I had a lot time to think during the pandemic and some events happened in my life. Someone close to me pass away early in the pandemic and a good friend of mine (also qualified for the games) almost die in a car accident. It got me thinking a lot about my own vulnerability and that my last time at the games.. I wasn't in a good place mentally. I didn't want to go into my 30's thinking about what I left on the table nor waste anytime wondering what if.
What will it take to be BET's hottest black athlete of the winter Olympics? Must have been tough to come second and be so close yet so far last Olympics
AHAHAHA! I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW I MADE THE LIST
Hakeem Abdul-Saboor if he qualifies will probably be first in my opinion. Well spoken and humble dude!
How did you get into winter sports? It’s not like you can just take an easy winter trip to go skiing a few towns over at the nearest mountain range to your home lol
My sister took a trip to a local hill with the Girl Scouts in Fort McMurray and really loved it. She convinced both my parents to register us in the local ski program and for some years I wasn't really a big fan of it. In 2003, we moved to Calgary which was close to the rockies and I had access to better facilities. My love for skiing just took off from there.
Don't you think that choosing to compete for Eritrea instead of Canada feeds in to the racist rhetoric that immigrants are not really true Canadians?
(Asking as a European with Arab heritage.)
This is a really good question and thank you for asking it! Not sure why people downvoting this
To be quite honest, I do believe it does feed into the racist rhetoric. I remember from the last Olympics people attacking my parents for being refugees (at one point) and specifically telling them to leave the country if their son (ME) is going to take all the resources and not be 'Canadian'. Last summer (2020), I also went public about my experiences being someone of colour in a winter sport and I was again attacked because I should 'shut up' and be grateful to be a Canadian. It is hurtful to hear that, but I do believe those views are held by a minority.
I think being Canadian is accepting different aspect of a multicultural society where you can still have roots to your heritage. I do not know how it is like where you're from, but I have felt accepted for being both Eritrean and Canadian in my community. I hope that answers your question.
What's Eritrea like? it's not a wildly known country and I've heard it described as the North Korea of Africa, thoughts?
My experiences visiting Eritrea have been very good. I have not had any issues while I was there before I was an olympic athlete. People are very kind, giving and very socially active. I was not bored for a single minute while I was there. There was always an adventure with some of the locals. It is a poor country and it is developing so there is poverty and lack of accessibility to certain commodities.
How do you feel about other athletes that can live from the sport, either through advertising or state sponsored training facilities. Do they have an unfair advantage to athletes that have to work?
This question definitely hits close to home because I had to work full-time this summer (plus contract gigs) and figure how to train and take summer classes. Mentally it was draining and I had to make some hard decisions with how to allocate my time. Some people I trained with were fully sponsored and had monthly stipends. It helped their training incredibly!
I do believe it is an advantage and you can definitely gain an edge, however I know personally a handful of NCAA athlete that worked during the summer and still maintained top 30 rankings in the world. I really think its dependant on the person and how hard you work.
Favourite ski resort?
That's a tough one, but my fondest memories are from Red Mountain, BC and Whitewater, BC.
Yoooo you know BC!
I lived in Invermere for 3 years my man! BC is my home
Have you skied in the US? Curious particularly about Utah, I love their snow.
Skied in Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Washington. Was suppose to be in Wyoming next week, but COVID is running rampant and my team does not want to risk anything.
What are your favorite places in those states? Sorry that’s what I was curious about but I guess I forgot to ask 😂
Mission Ridge, WA
Where'd you hit in CO? I'm just starting out here.
Vail, Breckenridge, Copper, Loveland, Beaver Creek, Aspen and A-Basin
Where did you go in idaho!
Schweitzer and Sun Valley! Loved Schweitzer.. Sun Valley was a bit too much for me
Too much, in what way? What is too much for an Olympian?
Way too bougie for me
Canadian here. If you end up going to Beijing, bring extra socks. No matter what they say, always have an extra pair of warm socks.
Also, Toronto doesn't have skiing worth the name. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.
What's your favourite place in Canada to ski?
I am told it will be cold and I will definitely pack for the weather.
Yes, I am very well aware of that. Did a race series in Collingwood almost a decade ago and it sucked for snow conditions.
My favourite place to ski in Canada is white water in Nelson BC
I wish you a safe trip and successful competition, Shannon! If you had a choice between representing Eritrea and Canada, what made you pick Eritrea? Does being an Olympic athlete give you any recognition or honors there, or is it more like a volunteer position?
Thank you for the kind words!
It's hard question and one that I have though about a lot, but if I was given the choice, I would represent Eritrea. Initially, my decisions for Eritrea in 2011 was to being to participate in the 2012 Youth Games, but it has evolved from that after my last Olympics. Culturally I want to break the norms and help other people of colour join winter sports. I do believe there's a big fear (and justifiably) and I believe I can only raise awareness by participating for Eritrea.
Being an Olympic Athlete for Eritrea does give you recognition and honours.
I don't mean this in a rude way at all, but is it easier to qualify for Eritrea than it is for the Canadian team? I don't know the process but I'd imagine there's a few less people trying out for the Eritrean team.
I live in Saskatchewan and was part of the Nancy Greene ski racing program for a number of years. It was rough competing against guys who had regular access to the mountains, but those are some of my best memories. Good luck friend!!
Yes, truthfully it is!
I still have to make a quota criteria with the sport federation which I was able to do.
favorite winter food?
Don't know if this counts as a winter food, but my mom makes a mean Lasagna dish!! Always a delight when I come home!
Would you rather fight 1 horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?
1 horse size duck all the way!!
What would you like the world to know about Eritrea?
Eritrean people are some of the kindest and giving people I have ever met. They will give you the shirts of their back and help you if you ever need it. Always humble, hard working and offer great hospitality.
Have you ever fallen and hurt djibouti?
Many times.. Many times..
What kind of pizza do you like?
Someone is finally asking very important questions
Two guys and a pizza place in Lethbridge, Alberta hands down as the best pizza I've had in North America. The roadhouse is my personally favourite: http://www.twoguyspizza.ca
I personally believe that sausage, onion, green peppers and mushroom are the best pizza toppings. Care to divulge yours?
Do you have any plans or ideas on how to integrate your skiing experience with your future computer\business career?
And since you're a student of digital technology- I've read some fascinating stuff about avalanche rescue locator devices. Have you had any experience with these or their use or ideas for their future development?
This past summer, I actually started a small business working with athlete from different sports and doing web development, photos, videos, etc. lt paid pretty well and I think it would be a good opportunity for a side hustle. I've been doing work for telecom company for the last three years and getting into 5G development. I have been offered a placement there so I will pursuit that after school
I never though about tech and avalanche rescue locator devices! I will read up on that sometime tonight before bed.
What was the best moment in your entire winter sports career?
Had to think hard about this one, but I have to do say the best moment in career was when I got cleared to ski again and qualified for the games after a near career-ending injury. Took me a year of rehabilitation and to have come back from it and defy my own expectations was probably the most fulfilling moment.
Do you know other African skiers? Is it a close knit group? Or very competitive? Good luck!!
I know pretty much all the other African skiers and the one's from small nations.
We're a close knit group during the games and when we compete at races together.
Congratulations! What is the fan support like from your country? Is your community cheering you on? Good luck to you in the Olympics.
They have been incredibly supportive over the years and it's been overwhelming sometimes.
Thank you! I appreciate the kind words
Do you have any rituals or routines, or things to bring you luck?
just curious as I always carried a lucky coin on me
EDIT: best of luck at the games. I'll be watching for you!
1km run in the morning, specific playlist on my iPod and a book to read.
I don't do anything crazy because I am very superstitious when it comes to race day
mind share what music you liked to listen to?
- In a post-covid world how do you think your country’s political relations will be with Wakanda moving forward?
- How much sex do you think you will have in the Olympic village?
- I was watching black panther while eating my breakfast this morning ahaha! I think they should be relatively good, if they share vibranium.
- Oh man! I knew this question was going to be asked..! Not sure because of COVID rules and procedures, but I am now single as of 2 days ago... so Maybe???
Strength and power to you post breakup. You got this.
Thanks man! It's not a big deal.. made me choose between my sport and her.. I choose the latter! Life goes on :)
Can you please describe a dish from your country that you wish the rest of the world could enjoy? I know this isn't sports related, but amazing athletes gotta eat!
Zigni.. its a beef stew curry type dish
You eat with a sour flat bread called injera and its so good! Better when its made in Eritrea!
Is there any decent skiing in Africa? If so what’s your favorite spot?
There's a hill in South Africa called tiffindell ski resort. Never been there, but they have annual races that a few people I know have participated in. Snow conditions I hear are similar to spring snow.
My favourite sport to watch is weightlifting
There is a ski resort in South Africa called Tiffindell. Never been, but they have races there in the summer every year. I hear the snow is similar to spring skiing in North America.
My favourite sport to watch is Weightlifting in the summer or Bobsleigh in the Winter.
What is your best event?
Do you do any ski mountaineering?
How long have you been a skier? Where did you learn?
Congratulations and I will be cheering for you!
My best event is Super-G, but I no longer do that because my body is wrecked from previous injuries.
I have done a bit it during the pandemic since most ski resorts were packed with people
I have been skiing since I was 3 years old and I first learned how to ski in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada
To your question below: I have participated in the Youth Olympics Games (2012) and Pyeongchang(2018)
Does it feel weird to watch the other teams enter the opening ceremonies with large groups representing each country, then you just going out by yourself for Eritrea?
No, the last time I had my family with me during the opening ceremonies and I this time I will have my incredibly supportive team members alongside me
Do you plan to watch Cool Runnings while you're there?
I think a viewing party may be in the works
Do you participate in any summer sports?
Not competitively, but I do road & mountain biking during the summer.
Are you nervous?
But I think it should go well.. just trying not to catch covid before the games
How does the 2% tax on all overseas earnings back to Eritrea work in practice?
Never been asked to pay for 2%
The only time I can recall paying a tax of some sort was when I got my passport completed and needed some paperwork done for the games.
Hey man, thanks for answering.
Follow up question, is there anywhere in Eritrea you could train?
Physically, they have facilities for me to do training and a good running track. Skiing wise, they do not.
What’s your best discipline? What are your FIS points?
A friend of mine skied for Swaziland in Albertville and tried again for Salt Lake but couldn’t get his points low enough to qualify. Good luck!!
FIS points I believe in the ~120 right now.. not my best since I retired and they got inflated. Best discipline is GS
Had them down to 65 at one point and I hope I can get them there for the games
Hey, congrats! What do you think of the politics of it all? :)
Being truthfully honest.. I really think its insane! I know every Olympic Games has had some elements of politics in the shadows, but this is outrageous on every level. I feel the spirit of these Olympic Games have dissipated and I would not be surprised if some team outright refuse to come due to Covid and other political factors. And even if the tv rating decline.
How did you get into alpine skiing?
Best of luck!!
My sister took a day trip with the girl guide group to the local ski hill when my family lived in Fort McMurray, AB. She likes a lot and my folks decided to register us in the ski racing program there. In 2003, we moved to Calgary and I started skiing in the rockies. My passion and love for the sport took off from there.
Is there any winter sports culture at all in Eritrea? If so, how?
I wouldn't say there is a winter sport culture in Eritrea, but after my participation in 2018 there were more participating in winter sports in North America and Europe. One of my biggest projects is to have a bobsleigh team for 2026 and specifically have athletes from Eritrea participate. There is a big issue with accessibility predominately in North America, but from my knowledge there's a lot of Eritrea in Europe that part take in skiing and other winter activities.
How did you decide to represent Eritrea? Did you ever have an opportunity to be a part of team Canada?
In 2011, I made the decision to represent Eritrea. At first it was primarily a decision to compete in the Youth Olympics games, but it has evolved from that and I want to start encouraged other Eritreans and African's to start winter sports. I was apart of Team Alberta for a national event back in 2011.
Have you seen Eddie the Eagle movie?
Not yet, but that's on my list of movies to watch
Hi! What does your dream day of training look like? Do you do any supportive practices like stretching a specific muscle group, visualization, meditation, breathing or posture exercises? What's your self talk like? Good luck – training on Olympic level is such a great achievement!! :-)
Hey, thank you for the kind words!
My dream day of training would start with a good sleep (8-9hrs), good breakfast and a well brewed cup of coffee. Morning warmup would be a run/bike, foam rolling and some active warmup (glutes, quads, cores, etc). Stretching only necessary if something is tight, but the active warmup does most of the work. Blue bird day or firm snow condition is a must and I am a happy camper.
I do some visualization if I am having difficulty in a certain section of a course, but mostly mediation. I found that some breathing before a run or race helps with my anxiety levels. Self talk is being rationally and positive.
Hard one, but based on my personal experiences I would say Aksel Lund Svindal from Norway.
How are the Olympics behind the scenes, how is it interacting with other Olympians and other countries, is it actually like a college frat house like some news outlets have portrayed? any fun Olympic village type stories?
From experience, its a bit of both worlds. There are some people who are friendly and sociable and some that do not want to be talked to. I had mostly good interactions with other olympians and some negative of course. One thing that starts interactions are pin exchanging and my countries pin was rare.. so it started some good conversations.
Towards the games or peoples event, I have to say that things definitely got wild.. and for me too. A lot drinking and partying (post event) and there were definitely a few athletes that got sent home due to excessive parting. I can't be a snitch unfortunately, but I can say I did witness a certain individual from a certain country walking into rec room every night and picking 2--3 girls at a time 😂
Pretty sure you were in some of my classes at ULeth? I recognize you, probably cause I'm also also in General Management. Anyways, congrats and good luck, I will make sure to watch out for you!
I qualified for Olympic Trials in my sport back in 2018 and am in a hiatus right now. Would love to return like you and give my Olympic hopes another go
Ahaha, thanks man! Won't ask for your name but if you see me on campus sometime in the new year, don't be afraid to say hi.
Its never too late to give it another go
Did you train in Eritrea before moving to Canada? What opportunities did you have to achieve going to the Olympics in Eritrea? Do you have a Canadian Passport? If you do have a cdn passport and didn't train till you got here, what made you decide to represent a different nation?
I'm not trying to judge you in any way. This isn't meant to ssound snarky. I just know people who have done this before. I know a guy who is Candian and chose to play for another country after moving their briefly. He likely still would have made our hockey team, aswell. I'm just wondering what the thought process is for the folks that have chosen to do this.
God Bless and I hope you do so good!
Thank you for your question! I do not take any offence to it at all!
I was born and raised in Canada and I do carry a CDN passport along with an Eritrean one. I made the decision to compete for Eritrea in 2011 when an opportunity to participate in the Youth Olympic Games arose. My motivation at first was just to compete at the event, but it changed after I attend the 2018 Olympics. There's a lack of representation of POC in winter sports and I want to change that narrative going forward. I want other likes me from the Eritrea diaspora and other nations to not be afraid to start something new.
How do you like Canada? Do you plan to continue living there long term?
Been in Canada my entire life.. except for a few years where I live abroad for a few months. I will see where my life takes me
Do you have any companies in mind once you complete your undergraduate in computer sciences and business management? Do you think you will stick to Toronto or branch out to surrounding areas like Oakville, Burlington or Hamilton. Best of luck to you BTW. I'll be cheering you on!
For the last three years, I actually been working for a Canadian telecom company as an intern and I got a position with them based out of Toronto. I would like to stay out west as much as possible because I love to ski and there isn't much out in Ontario. Plus, my rent in Toronto is absurd right now compared to Alberta. However we will see where my life takes me. I've always wanted to go back and live in South Korea after being there for the games in 2018.
Have you heard of Nipsey Hussle?
Of course I have! I was suppose to meet him at a conference in DC, but he unfortunately cancelled! A few months later he passed away :(
Favorite restaurant in Toronto?
Ruby Soho and 416 Snack bar (if I am drunk enough)
then I might run into you some day! I frequent 416 Snack Bar 😊 Best of luck in the Olympics! 🥇
AHAHA! There's a good chance we might have crossed path! Thank you
What do you do when your not training or practicing?
Read books or study.. still a full-time student in school
For fun, I love ski recreationally when the snow is good and take photos/videos.
You are a legend. I’ll be cheering you on all the way!
Do you have any pre-run superstitions?
I have do some breathing before my run because I have high functioning anxiety.. that's really about it.
What is your favorite thing to do in the gym to train? What kind of music do you like? Being from Canada, do you like ice hockey? Do you have a favorite team? Good luck! I hope you do well!!
Leg day everyday! Favourite thing to do in the gym.
Linked my Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/user/22lc33qiu7c63csq35tsm32oa?si=LU9Jz0PtR1empEn1ce6EGw) but its a mix of pretty much everything.. I tolerate some country music
Love hockey! I am actually a Calgary Flames season ticket holder this year.
Have you ever tried snowboarding? Do you like it at all?
I did once when I was 8 and I hated it.
I would be up for trying it again since I am an avid longboard!
What's it like in Eritrea? What makes it home that you miss?
The people and their kindness! The last I went was after a rough semester of college and being disconnected from the world was freeing. Also the food is soooo good!
How old were you when your parents emigrated to Canada? What is the process to obtain Eritrean citizenship? (I'm assuming you have to to represent them at the Olympics, please correct me if in wrong!) How did your family come to choose Alberta to settle in?
I didn't linked the information above, but I was born in Canada. My parents emigrated here in the 90's. My dad first came in the 80's and my mom emigrated to the states first. My parents met at a wedding in Ontario and afterwards moved to Fort McMurray in 1990. My dad graduated from engineering school in Winnipeg and job prospect were booming in the oil industry hence the move to Alberta.
Canadian POC here, Have you ever experienced racism? I want to get into snowboarding and skiing but I have anxiety that I will be treated badly because of my dark skin, due to bad past experiences in this country.
Hey! Thank you for your question!
I think I answered it on the r/calgary, but I will write a more throughout answer here. I did experience racism and it was severe at some points. It affected my mental health significantly and towards the end of my career (before I came back), I had a nervous breakdown. I blended in at times and consciously try to be more 'white'. I was also treated poorly once at a national event and that completely messed me up for a long time. I walked away in 2018 from my sport because of it and went public about my experiences in a CBC article in 2020. I was very scared to come back to skiing, but I was surprised by the support and how the community changed since. I think there is definitely a lack of people POC in winter sport and justifiable its because of those experiences. I do hope that my participation can change that narrative going forward. Please if there's anything I can do to support you or help you try skiing.. do not be afraid to reach out.
How did you feel when you heard your anthem in the Olympic Village?
It was emotionally, but I think it was more so for my parents.. particularly my dad. They lost a lot in the civil war and for them so the flag and hear the anthem at the Winter Olympics.. it meant a lot. Both of them sacrificed a lot!
Unrelated to winter sports: what are your favorite dishes from home?
Zigni.. its a beef stew dish
China has been pursuing a strict zero-COVID policy that means some pretty severe quarantine restrictions for people entering the country. Are there any exemptions for athletes? And how do you fit these things into your fitness/training schedule?
If you’re not vaccinated, you have to enter quarantine for 21 days before the start of your event. This exception is given to individuals from countries where Covid vaccination has been difficult. We need two PCR test to enter china, one upon arrival and test everyday till we leave. If we test positive, we can be in quarantine for up to 5 weeks. It’s very strict and in fact I’m in self isolation right now because I don’t want to risk getting Covid before the games. They won’t allow you in if you do
Do you compete with the onsite representation of a full Eritrean Government delegation?
For these games, there will not be a government delegation from Eritrea due to COVID reasons.
What's better Fairmont hot springs or radium hot springs?
Radium Hot Springs.. but when it's not a holiday.
Went during the family day long weekend in 2016 and I will never do that again
What is other ppl reaction when they see a black man in the Winter Olympics? Do you have a funny story?
People have definitely stared and are a bit stunned, but I have to say at the games I experience a lot of support. The only sort of Olympics I had a bit of trouble with was the Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck (2012). I think culturally some people were a bit shocked and definitely had some comments made.
I think the funniest story I had was in Idaho on the chairlift with some random guy who decided to blurt out that his town had the highest rate of KKK supportive member and that he felt 'ashamed for it'. Super awkward, but nonetheless hilarious.
Eritrea? that near Leeds?
Eastern edge of Africa, bordering Ethiopia.
Do you have a lucky egg that you kiss before competing?
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