Kenya's Super-Giant

Kenya's Super-Giant
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Sabrina Wanjiku Simader, 23, is the first Kenyan urban skier specialising in Alpine Skiing. She represented Kenya in the 2018 winter Olympic games where she finished 38th in the Super Giants category. She will give it another shot in the 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing, China. An only child from a single parent household after losing her stepfather at the age of 13, Sabrina speaks English, German, Italian and Kikuyu, and lives in Austria.

1.What do you count as your scariest or most intimidating skiing experience? How did you overcome it?
My first downhill race in Italy three years ago. I had done practice on downhill racing but on the day of the competition, I was really afraid because it was bumpy and I frequently had to make big jumps. The race was also really fast! I dug deep within myself for courage and decided to believe in my strength, but it was a big challenge. Eventually I became more comfortable with the transitions from bumps to jumps and I just kept going.

2. How important is it for you to shut out external noise from detractors? Does it affect your performance in any way?
For me it's never about the public or the spectators. I put pressure on myself and I always purpose to give my best performance. The only pressure I allow to consume me is the one I put on myself. When you compete at this level, it is important to make time for yourself. I enjoy training by myself even though I have a coach. Skiing is an individual sport so mostly, I have only myself to count on as I go down the rocky mountains. Therefore, I can’t allow other people’s perceptions to affect my performance.

3. There has been a lot of talk about athletes and mental health. What do you do to maintain your emotional wellbeing?
I meditate a lot. I believe that is one of the most important things any athlete should do because we go through a lot of pressure creating these characters that people see on the pitch or fields. I also live by self-affirmation, and I always stick to routines that can help me achieve my goals.

I try to always perform for myself and not for anyone else, so whenever I face journalist’s questions, I answer truthfully and quickly train my sights on the next challenge or event.

4. Are the winter Olympics similar to any of the other competitions you’ve featured in so far?
Not at all. Olympic games are so unique and emotionally captivating because you are carrying a whole country on your shoulders. You wear a jersey with the Kenyan name and flag and your country is mentioned at every introduction so I can’t compare the Olympics to anything else. The 2018 edition was my highlight and I hope that in future, more girls will try out skiing as a profession.

5. What are you looking forward to the most in the 2022 Winter Olympics? 
There is a lot of preparation to be done but I want to see if I can get to the top thirty in my category. Ski racing is quite a difficult discipline because we get judged on micro-second time splits and you can miss a gold medal by just one second.