Thai cross-country skier Karen Chanloung might be the perfect athlete to define the passion of winter sports at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
From Thailand’s capital Bangkok to the National Cross-Country Skiing Center in China’s Zhangjiakou, there is a nearly 50-Celsius dive in the temperature.
“It’s colder here than I thought,” laughed the 25-year-old girl.
Karen made her Winter Olympic Games debut skiing in the women’s 10 kilometers at PyeongChang 2018. She and her brother Mark Chanloung were the only cross-country skiers on the Thai team.
Thailand is a tropical country, with an average annual temperature of close to 30 degrees Celsius. Thailand has no outdoor places for winter sports, and Karen and Mark’s parents played an essential role in their careers.
The Italian-born grew up in a small mountain village of Aosta, Italy, where everyone practiced a winter sport.
Karen started alpine skiing at 3-years-old, then did snowboarding for one year when she was nine, before switching to cross-country skiing at age 10.
“I love to practice sports in general and enjoy trying new ones outside and close to nature, and I also do track and field events,” she said.
She has represented Thailand at two World Championships, three times at the U23 World Championships, and once in the 2019 Winter Universiade.
“Sports teaches you many lessons like how to lose, how to win, how to behave with other people, not just for sport, but for life in general,” said Karen.
Karen’s parents accompany her to Zhangjiakou. Her father is the team’s manager, and her mother is the physiotherapist.
“The room, the venue, and other facilities are great. Of course, I would like to be in the top 30 overall, but that would be difficult, and a realistic goal is to be in the top 50 or 40,” Karen added.
Despite the tropical climate, more and more Thai youth fall in love with winter sports.
“Many Thai athletes will choose to train across the country in winter because of the limiting of climate factors. In summer, we carry out roller skating training which is similar to cross-country skiing,” she said.
Thailand participated in the Winter Games for the first time in 2002, and in addition to Karen’s siblings, Nicola Zanon and Mida Jaiman will also represent Thailand in Alpine skiing this time.
Karen may not have brilliant results now, yet few athletes are as productive as her on the promotion of winter sports in a tropical nation.
She also participated in the establishment of a foundation to provide support for Thai youth to engage in winter sports events.
“I’m glad to inspire young people, maybe in the future we will have more Thai athletes at the Winter Olympic Games.”