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OLYMPIC REVIEW59 OLYMPIC SOLIDARITY DREAMSETTOCOMETRUE As a 17 year- old, Baghdad- born Faisal Faisal - a talented soccer player and regional 200m champion - watched the opening ceremony for the Nagano Games on television. It disheartened him that Iraq was not part of it and he vowed to represent his country at future Olympic Winter Games. Despite the difficult domestic situation, panic attacks and 14- hour bus trips he followed his dream and only narrowly missed out on qualification in skeleton for the Turin Games. Now aged 29, Faisal is currently training in the US and hopes to proudly carry the Iraqi flag in Vancouver, as Tom Pountney discovers Were there times you thought about giving up on your Olympic dream? Everyone I called for help told me I was being unrealistic and passed me on to someone else. It was really discouraging but I never thought about quitting, I always believed my dream would come true. I felt an obligation to achieve something because not many kids get the opportunities I had. The Americans have been very supportive and I have become part of the environment here, I am treated no differently to an American athlete. How did you feel before your first skeleton run? I would be lying if I said I wasn't anxious. The fear of the unknown was the biggest thing but after the first time I just wanted to go again. The smooth ride I expected turned out to be very rough. I was really happy but I knew it was going to be a tough journey. Your uncle Talib still holds the Iraq record for 400m? How has your family and your upbringing helped you make it to Olympic Games? My family is very supportive and sport has always been a big thing for us. The neighbourhood I grew up in was crazy about sport, we all grew up playing football in the street with dreams of going to the World Cup to represent our country. I thought I might become a football player or Formula One driver but it was the achievement that mattered the most to me, not the sport. It's what my life has been about for so long and it will show a lot of possibilities for kids back home. For the first time they will have someone to watch at the Winter Games so that they can dream whatever they want to and pursue it. I want to become the Winter sports role model I never had. Your best World Cup finish is 14th place. What are your goals for the Games should you reach them? I am just going to go full out. I have done some really good conditioning over the summer and will be using the same sled design as Kristan Bromley ( 2008 World Champion) and Shelley Rudman ( 2006 Olympic Silver medallist). I wouldn't say my goal is to win gold but it would mean every bit as much to carry the flag and achieve a respectable result. How has the Olympic Solidarity scholarship helped you on the way to making your dream a reality? It has been huge. It has officially introduced me into the Olympic family. Being an athlete with the scholarship has made the administrative side so much easier. Now I am recognised as an athlete trying to qualify for the Olympic Games. I was really crushed after not making Turin but the IOC has been very supportive since. FAISAL FAISAL

CLASSIC OLYMPICIMAGES OSLO 1952 SKIING France's Maurice Sanglard flies down the hill in the men's slalom at the 1952 Olympic Winter Games in Oslo. He didn't manage a medal though, as the gold was won by Austria's Othmar Schneider, with Norwegian pair Stein Eriksen and Guttorm Berge finishing second and third respectively on home soil. Photo: IOC