Nepal’s 44-year-old cross country skier Dachhiri Sherpa predicts he will finish last at the Olympics, but he’s used to such under-achievement. The 44-year-old finished 92nd and 94th in the 15km events at the 2006 Turin Games and 2010 Vancouver Olympics and isn’t expecting anything better next month in Sochi.
“I have taken four months off work and skied every single day since December to train for this event, but I’m not perfect,” said the bricklayer. “I think there is a very big chance I will finish last. But the placing is not important if I can teach young people in Nepal about the Olympic spirit. This spirit is in my heart.”
Sherpa was born in the village of Chulemo at the foot of Mount Everest — a four-day walk from the nearest road — and raised in a local monastery. At 17, he started work as an assistant cook for tourist trekking expeditions.
“When I was young, I could never have imagined what would happen in my life,” Sherpa told the Olympics news service.
He only took up skiing when he was 33. “Things first changed when some tourists from the Netherlands paid for me to do a course to become a mountain guide. Then a few years later, I started running,” recalled Sherpa who eventually moved to Switzerland.
His transformation to skiing came about by accident when the Nepal Olympic Committee made him an offer to take part in the 2003 Asian Winter Games in Japan. “I was interested and asked what running distance they wanted me to do. I was quite surprised when they said it was for skiing — I had never done it before. They said ‘do some training and you will be OK’.”
At Turin, he became only the second Nepali to compete at a Winter Olympics.
But time is catching up with the man who earns his living on Swiss building sites. “This will be my last Olympics. I need to find the next young talent. The problem is that most people in Nepal can’t watch international TV, so very few people will see the race. Plus, there is no place to ski in Nepal,” he added.