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Portugal's 'cool runnings' Olympic skiing hopefulls

italyPortugal will be represented in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

This is a first for a country characterised by hot summers and mild winters, with snow only in the northern mountain ranges, and with no highly developed or renowned skiing industry.

However, the slalom skills of Artur Hanse and Camile Dias will be on show to a worldwide audience as they have just been accepted by the Federation of Winter Sports in Portugal (FDIP) to head to Russia.

The two athletes, both living abroad and children of Portuguese emigrants, will compete in alpine skiing, the slalom and the giant slalom.

"It is a remarkable moment. For the first time we have two qualified athletes," said Pedro Farromba, president of FDIP speaking during the opening ceremony of the 2013/14 sports season in the Serra da Estrela.

Farromba considers that the acceptance of the two is already a victory, and goes on to give his assessment of their chances, "of course we are not expecting any medals as the cream of the skiing world will be there."

Summarising Portugal's national character in one paragraph, the inspirational national coach Sérgio Figueiredo added, “We can’t even talk of being in the top 10 or 20, but we can talk about being in the middle of the table. Coming in between 50 and 60th is the goal and we are working hard to get there."

Camile Dias, 17, resides in Leysin, Switzerland, and Artur Hanse, 20, lives in France. Both are now in Norway training hard for Sochi and Hans has been chosen to carry the Portuguese flag in the opening ceremony.

Pedro Farromba looks at the presence of the two skiers in the Olympics as the "culmination of the work done in recent years with the Portuguese communities abroad in countries with a tradition of snow sports and good training facilities with the goal of finding atheletes with the potential to wear the national colors.

"The standard of skiing is higher in other countries than in Portugal so we have to look for Portuguese migrants in these countries," noted the president of the federation. "Others can train every day, competing every weekend, obviously it gives them a competitive level far different to that in Portugal," said Farromba who added, unconvincingly, that “this strategy does not preclude working with those who live in Portugal, there are some young people here who are a hope for the next Olympics.

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