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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 
Kenya send 14 players to World Icestock
Sport Championships in Austria

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya will send a team of 14 players to this year’s Icestock Sport World Championships to be held in Amstetten, Austria between Feb. 25 and March 5, officials said on Friday.

The team, which comprises seven men and seven women, will depart Nairobi on Feb. 23 to join 35 nations from across the globe in the winter sport that has its origins in Bavaria, Germany.

“The sport has been in existence in Kenya for 15 years but lack of publicity is the single most factor that has taken a heavy toll in the spread of the game and thus confined it in Nairobi only,” Tim Ngugi, the Chairman of Icestock Sport Kenya told Xinhua.

Although the game is a winter sport, it does not feature at the Winter Olympics where it has been demonstrated twice at the quadrennial global event.

The game, which is mostly played in Germany, Austria and Italy, is similar to curling where competitors slide ice stocks over an ice surface aiming for a target or to cover the longest distance.

Although the sports is traditionally played on an ice surface known as a rink, events are also held on tarmac in summer.

Whereas there are several disciplines in icestock sports, only target shooting and distance shooting are contested in international championships.

Not many Kenyans are aware that the East African nation sends a team every year to either the global event, the African and European Championships respectively.

In August 2009, Kenya hosted the Africa Championships in Nairobi which was won by Namibia.

Ngugi said cost of equipment, lack of acceptance by members of the sports fraternity, and non-existent sponsorship are some of the challenges that have hampered growth and spread of the game countrywide.

Kenya, which is ranked number 21 out of 48 countries globally, Namibia and Tunisia are the most active African nations, with Egypt and Gabon showing increasing interest in the game.

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EARLIER REPORT:

Kenya’s first Olympic alpine skier becomes UNEP Mountain Hero

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s first Olympic alpine skier Sabrina Wanjiku Simader has been designated as UN Environment’s first Mountain Hero, the UN environmental body said on Friday.

The 19-year-old athlete, Africa’s “snow leopard”, is also set to become the first Kenyan alpine skier to compete in the Olympic Games when she takes to the slopes in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 12.

Erik Solheim, UN Environment’s Executive Director, said Simader’s voice will be important to help draw attention to emerging environmental issues in mountain regions such as climate change, waste, and loss of biodiversity.”

“UN Environment is delighted to announce the appointment of the Kenyan skier Sabrina Wanjiku Simader as the UN’s first Mountain Hero,” Solheim said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

Simader represented Kenya at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics in Norway, when she came in the top 25 of all three disciplines she competed in.

Now she has her eyes trained at the medal stand in PyeongChang.

The athlete was born in Kenya but grew up in Austria and was trained by her stepfather, who owned a ski lift and would take her out on the slopes.

She loves skiing and spending time in the mountains. She also has a passion for species such as the iconic snow leopard, as her racing suit clearly demonstrates.

“Our mountains are changing due to climate change, which is causing glaciers to retreat and threatening biodiversity, including species like the iconic snow leopard. I wanted to become more engaged to protect these fragile and vulnerable regions,” said Simader.

“I train in Schladming in Austria, a region that has already witnessed the impacts of climate change, including the shifting of the ski season, which impacts winter tourism,” she added.

The UN Environment said Simader will be also lending her support to the United Nations Wild for Life campaign, which aims to end the illegal wildlife trade. Her kindred species: the snow leopard.

Simader said it has always been her dream to participate in the Winter Olympics and represent not only Kenya but - alongside other athletes, like those from Nigeria and Africa at large.

“I hope I can lead by example and inspire other young Africans to also follow their dreams,” she said.

The Kenyan has taken on challenging and dangerous speed disciplines, downhill and Super G in her adopted home in Vienna.

Usually, racers from outside the traditional Alpine skiing nations do not venture beyond the less risky slalom and giant slalom.

           

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