I feel highly elated, each time I have to write a success story; what greater joy if it happens to be an African story. That is how I feel as I piece this story together, the tale of a prodigy; one that thought the unconventional, sought the unimaginable and achieved the extra ordinary. Talented, magnificently endowed and clearly skillful in every ramification.
Born 18th July 1960 in Dakar, Lamine Guèye is a Senegalese skier and the current president of the Senegalese Ski Federation, which he founded in 1979. He was the first Black African skier to take part in the Olympics, and has taken part twenty-five times in the Alpine skiing World Cup and five times in the Alpine World Ski Championships. Clearly a downhill expert right? How it all began:
Lamine was only 8 years old at the time when his grandfather passed away, an incident that threw him off his wits. Devastated and utterly stricken by the news of the death of his hero and loyal friend, one whose name he still bears and cherishes-Pa lamine Gueye the former president of the National Assembly of Senegal-Lamine was shipped away on a journey of recovery to Switzerland by his mother and grandmother, who were insistent that he needed the change to recuperate. The experience that followed was one that can never be erased from the mind of the young lad; a touch that changed his life forever. As he looked out of the window one morning, he saw snow for the first time; totally stunned, he stepped out and caressed “the legendary powder”. This brief experience instantly lit a ravenous fire in him; a desire for skiing, an extraordinary passion. A journey of recovery soon became a journey of discovery. He recounts: “Back to Senegal, one morning, I run to my mother: I will create the Senegalese Ski Federation! She thinks I’m crazy; but the idea is engraved in my head and I call the French and international ski federation. A silence of fifteen seconds on the phone. They think it was a joke. Not at all.”
Out of sheer determination and persistence, Lamine worked at his vision; he wrote the articles of association in three languages and wished that someone, anyone would listen and agree with his vision. In a short while, his wish was fulfilled when he had the opportunity to speak with the Sports Minister and President Leopold Sedar Sengho, who responded with great delight. Soon, he was permitted to join the Junior Group with France Hopes, and so his first door of opportunity opened. A few years later, 1980 precisely; he watched the Olympic Games on TV and admired Flanz Klammer an Austrian Skier and hoped that he would get there someday. In 1983 the dream became a reality, and Lamine was handed the opportunity he had waited patiently for; he was allowed to participate in the Olympic Games on the condition that he would come represent Senegal. Soon, the ski expert was seen striding with confidence in the Olympic Village, according to him; “I was walking like a kid in Disney land, everything seems like a magical nebula where I wander alone without a coach in the aisles full of athletes, they come to me spontaneously.. Solidarity, respect; Olympism in all its glory…”
What started as a teenage fancy soon bloomed into a world class venture, and Lamine was soon shaking hands with the high and mighty and drinking from the china reserved for the high flyers in his field; a level that never ceases to remind him about that morning communion with the “Legendary powder”.
He made every appearance downhill a promise, not just to himself but to Africa; like a missionary in a foreign country, without a shadow of doubt and any sign of intimidation or trepidation, he passes his message, making converts everywhere. And like an ambassador in a country, he brandishes the flag of his country; proud to be noticed. “When I go into the arena, sandwiched between the Americans and the Soviets, I squeeze with all my might the flag of Senegal…I think Senegal and suddenly seize the symbolic significance of my presence; never a black African Skier had participated in the Winter Games.”
Lamine has been a prominent figure in drawing attention to what he considers to be discriminatory qualification rules for the Winter Olympics; a fight for smaller countries to participate in Winter Olympics. He has written to the International Olympic Games Committee, requesting that all countries be granted the right to participate in the Winter Games, as was the case up to 1992 (included), and as is still the case for the Summer Olympics. He is also the author of Skieur Sénégalais Cherche Esprit Olympique, translated to mean ‘Senegalese Skier seeks Olympic spirit’. The book also supports his fight for smaller countries to participate in the Winter Olympics.
The African genius was also a model and has featured in a number of movies.
With determination and a clear picture of his purpose, Lamine has continued to make great inscriptions in the sands of time and in the lives of many. Dear friend, discover your purpose and pursue it with everything you’ve got; fix your gaze on the big picture, because that is truly all you need to leave a lasting mark. Best wishes, see you at the top. Soon, Konnect Africa will be sharing your story.