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OLYMPIC REVIEW57 OLYMPIC SOLIDARITY WINTERCRUSADER Philip Boit caught the world's attention at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games at Nagano. He was Kenya's first Winter Olympian and the public was mesmerised by the fact he had first strapped on a pair of skis only two years previously. David Cord of the Helsinki Times travelled to his training camp in Finland to meet him: Boit struggled home last in the 10km cross- country and the winner, Bjørn Dæhlie of Norway, was so inspired by Boit's determination that he refused to accept his medal until Boit finished the race. That experience was so moving for Boit that he would later name one of his sons Dæhlie. Boit has no plans on hanging up his skis just yet. He is now back in Finland, training for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Kenya isn't known for its winter sports. How did you get started in skiing? It was in February 1996 that I started, so it has been more than ten years now. At the time we were sponsored by a sportswear company which suggested that we try winter sports. I was a middle distance runner but switched sports for the Winter Games. I was the first Kenyan to compete in the Olympic Winter Games. The first time I saw snow was when I arrived in Finland to start training! My first experiences were very difficult. I couldn't handle the skis at all and when I tried to stand, I would fall over. I spent a lot of time lying in the snow, freezing cold. I was in a lot of pain and I remember thinking if this goes on forever I might quit skiing. And now you've been to three Olympic Winter Games and are training for your fourth. How is your training going? I have a great coach and really enjoy training. I train for about two and a half hours outside every day and alternate the style of training. For instance, today was classic style; tomorrow will be skating style. When I am in Kenya of course I have to train differently because we don't have snow. There I run and go to the gym to work on my endurance. Sometimes I walk with poles or roller- skate. At the Games in Nagano, Salt Lake City and Turin I did the sprints and the 10- kilometre classic, and in Vancouver I will compete in the same events. How are you supported for your training? I am being assisted by the Kenya NOC. They receive Solidarity Scholarship funds from the IOC in order to help me. Olympic Solidarity assists NOCs all over the world. So the IOC dips into their pockets and my own NOC also helps out. This provides me with tremendous support. PHILIP BOIT

OLYMPIC SOLIDARITY 58OLYMPIC REVIEW BROTHERSINARMS The Latvian siblings Andris and Juris Sics are the youngest luge duo in the world's top twenty pairs and, with the help of Olympic Solidarity, are aiming for a medal at the Vancouver Games, writes Ilze Ake- Viksne: In an event where an almost telepathic understanding is needed to compete at the very top level, it is no surprise that many of the top pairings in the luge doubles are siblings. After finishing seventh in Turin three years ago, the Sics brothers from Latvia, who, as kids, used to jump the fence to lark about on their local track, have set their sights on a podium place in Vancouver. How did you discover the luge track? Andris: As children we lived near the Sigulda luge track, which attracted our attention from early on. At first it was just a place for us to play around. We used to try to conquer the track using different sliding methods until one day the track guard caught us and put us in the hands of a qualified coach. Thus our early naughtiness grew into a serious training process that has now lasted over 15 years and made luge our life. At the age of sixteen we went to the Murjani Sports High School and specialised in the luge. Juris: This is just our fifth season participating in the doubles competition. Before our Olympic debut inTurin where we finished in seventh place, we had ridden together just for one season. Why did you decide to ride a doubles luge? Andris: We always wanted to ride together. Our proportions are ideal for the doubles luge. We used to say that we were born for the sled! Juris' legs are shorter and his back is longer – it perfectly fits in the sled's body so he lies underneath. I have very long legs, but a shorter back. It is an ideal combination for the doubles. Juris: We understand each other almost telepathically – one of the preconditions for a good run in the doubles luge. Doubles is a tricky event requiring clever teamwork and each one of us has to assume responsibility for the other team member. The singles sled is lower and more stable: in the doubles the two sliders have to act as one single unit. Andris: Doubles luge is a sport suited to brothers. Currently there are the Linger brothers and the Schiegl cousins from Austria, the Broz brothers from the Czech Republic, the Moffats from Canada, and us. What are your goals? Andris: After Turin we began to think about Vancouver immediately. Next year's Games are our goal, and the whole training programme is dedicated to it. We are convinced that we have the ability to be the best in the world. As we are the youngest among the top double-seater sliders in the world, we think we are moving up in terms of physical and technical development. Of course, much depends on the sled, which is our main tool. It plays a crucial role in our sport, where even one- thousandth of a second matters. Olympic Solidarity has awarded you a Scholarship to prepare for the Vancouver Games. How do you use it? Juris: It enables us to prepare for the Games in a much better manner which is very important to us. Andris: The Scholarships provide us with regular medical and scientific assistance and control, and it covers our costs during the training sessions and competitions. Thanks to the Olympic Scholarship we can afford to feel more at home, even being far away from home. Do you have regular supporters or a fan club? Andris: We have our biggest fan – our Granny. That is why all our trophies are kept in her home. She has a calendar with all our competition dates and venues marked. She follows all our events closely, even though she will soon be 90. ANDRIS & JURIS SICS