Efired / Shutterstock.com
Efired / Shutterstock.com
As can be expected, the unlikely and surprising counties to make the cut are tropical or sub-tropical and have never seen winter, especially the way Austria or Norway do. Why and how, you may wonder? The athletes competing for these nations have usually either been born or raised in countries that become winter wonderlands.
Like many counties where cold weather is a rarity, much less snow, Mexico is a bit of a surprise at the Winter Olympics. This is the first time since Salt Lake City in 2002 when Mexico will have more than one athlete participating in the Winter Olympics – Robert Franco in slopestyle, Sarah Schleper and Rodolfo Dickson in giant slalom.
Bermuda qualified one male athlete, Tucker Murphy, who is competing in the cross country skiing event. His is his third straight appearance at the Winter Olympics. He was the flag bearer at the opening ceremony in Sochi in 2014. He was the sole athlete at the last two winter Games as well.
Malta has competed in 15 Summer Olympics and just one Winter Games. Alpine skier Elise Pellegrin was the first winter Olympian to represent Malta in Sochi four years ago. She will be doing so again in South Korea.
Australia is looking to take approximately 50 athletes to the PyeongChang, fewer than in Russia in 2014. The team will range from Olympic veterans to Olympic debutants across 11 sporting disciplines. Last time they won two silver medals and one bronze medal.
The Games in South Korea are going to mark the return of the territory to the Winter Olympics for the first time since 2002. Puerto Rico qualified one male athlete, Charles Flaherty, an Alpine skier.
Brazil will be competing in figure skating (one female athlete), bobsleigh (four men athletes), and Alpine skiing (one man). He will be entering both slalom and giant slalom competitions. Skater Isadora Williams was actually born in Georgia and was raised near Washington, D.C. She represented Brazil four years ago as well.
Malaysia, which has never participated at Winter Olympics before, has qualified a single male athlete for Alpine skiing. Jeffrey Webb became the first Malaysian to qualify for the Winter Olympics. Also, figure skater Julian Yee Zhi-Jie also qualified.
The Philippines had just one athlete representing the country in Sochi in 2014. Only one delegate is representing the tropical nation again this year in South Korea – 17-year old Asa Miller, who will be competing in the slalom ski event. Unsurprisingly though, she is a native of Portland, Oregon.
The country in West Africa qualified two female athletes – one in Alpine skiing and one in cross-country skiing. These are the second Winter Games in the history of the country. It debuted in Russia four years ago. Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean, one of the two Togolese skiers at the Sochi Games, had her family pay for her because the Togolese Ski Federation didn’t have the money.
The country is returning to the Winter Olympics, after its debut in 2014. The Timor-Leste team will consist of one man, Yohan Goutt Goncalves, who will be competing in Alpine skiing. He competed for East Timor at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. He ranked 43rd.
The Caribbean nation is sending one cross-country skier, Gary di Silvestri, to South Korea. Actually, he and his wife, Angelica Morrone di Silvestri, are Americans but had been awarded honorary Dominican citizenship for philanthropic work on the island. The Games in Sochi were Dominica’s first appearance in the Winter Olympics.
These Games will mark the country's debut in the cross-country skiing sport at the Winter Olympics. Pakistan qualified one male cross-country skier, Syed Human, and one Alpine skier, Muhammad Karim. Karim participated in Sochi and placed 71st out of 109 athletes in the Giant Slalom event.
Greece is the founding nation of the Olympic Games, and, in keeping with tradition, delegates will enter first during the opening ceremony. It will be a small delegation though – two Alpine skiers. Four years ago, the Greek team consisted of seven athletes in four sports.
South Africa missed the last Winter Games but the country is coming back this year. One male athlete, in Alpine skiing, qualified. In Vancouver in 2010 the country’s Olympic team consisted of two athletes in alpine skiing and cross-country skiing. RSA has never won a medal at Winter Games.
The African nation will be returning to the Winter Olympics for the first time since 2006 in Italy. Those Games were also its Winter Games debut. The one athlete representing Madagascar this year is Mialitiana Clerc, an Alpine skier. She was adopted by a French couple when she was one years old and has grown up in France.
Bolivia hasn’t participated in Winter Olympics since 1992. No athlete from Bolivia has ever won an Olympic medal, making it the only South American country in that unfortunate category. Austrian born skier Simon Breitfuss Kammerlander will be competing for Bolivia in the Alpine skiing events. The other athlete is Finnish born cross-country skier Timo Juhani Grönlund.
A team of seven athletes in two sports competed for the country at the Games in Sochi. A team of four in two sports – Alpine skiing and cross-country skiing – will be doing so. Fun fact: Argentina is considering bidding for future Olympics, with the iconic Patagonia region as a potential host of the Winter Games.
Ecuador has never competed in the Winter Olympic Games. The honor goes to cross-country skier Klaus Jungbluth Rodriguez. Ecuador’s first ever winter Olympian actually lives and trains in Australia. Even more interestingly, he only began racing last year after being introduced to skiing five years ago.
Three athletes represented India at the Games in Sochi but they entered as Independent Olympic participants because the Indian Olympic Association had been suspended since 2012. It reinstated the India's NOC in 2014. The country has taken part in several Winter Olympics but has never won a medal. Indian luger Shiva Keshavan qualified for the PyeongChang. Jagdish Singh qualified in cross-country skiing.
Even though has participated in most Olympics Games, they have never won a medal in the Winter Olympics. The country is sending two Alpine skiers and two cross-country skiers to, hopefully, change the gloomy record.
The last time Kenya competed in Winter Olympics was in 2006. Back then the team was just one woman, an alpine skier. She was the first woman to represent the country at winter Games. This year the one athlete from Kenya is Sabrina Simader. The Alpine skier moved to Austria when she was three years old, where she picked up the sport. Kenya will be making its Alpine skiing debut in South Korea.
The country last competed at Winter Games in 2010, which also actually its debut. Then the team consisted of three male athletes. The team this year also consists of three men in three different sports. Pedro Causil will become the first speed skater from South America to compete at the Winter Olympics.
Peru has participated in only two Winter Olympics – 2010 in Vancouver and 2014 on Sochi. The team in Russia consisted of three athletes in two sports. The same people represented Peru in Canada the previous Winter Games.
Cyprus has one of the warmest climates and warmest winters in the Mediterranean. Still, they have sent a winter Olympic team every year since 1980. The biggest team Cyprus has sent to Winter Olympics consisted of five people and that was back in 1984 in Sarajevo. This year they are sending only one – a man competing in Alpine skiing.
Thailand’s official debut in Winter Games came in 2002. Since then Thai athletes had appeared in every edition of the Winter Olympics, except in 2010 in Canada. They are scheduled to send three skiers – one in Alpine skiing and two, who were born in Italy, in cross-country skiing.
Nigeria's women's bobsleigh team will make history in Pyeongchang as the first African sled to compete at the Winter Olympics. In fact, Nigeria will be represented for the first time at the Winter Olympics. All the members of the Nigerian bobsled team are former top-flight college sprinters with dual Nigerian-American citizenship.