When, in the spring of 2019, Richardson Viano receives the phone call that will change his life, he is initially very skeptical. The 17-year-old was then a young amateur skier, registered with the Puy-Saint-Vincent club (Hautes-Alpes). He likes competition, but for lack of really exceptional results, thinks of taking off shoes to concentrate on his studies. But now a certain Jean-Pierre Roy asks him if he wants to join the ski team of… Haiti, for a stretch that can, who knows, cross the paths of glory. Richardson Viano asks the curious correspondent to explain things to his mother instead. What is this story ?
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It’s a long, sweet crazy dream, which began in 2010. That of Jean-Pierre Roy, a 46-year-old Haitian who arrived in France as a kid, engineer and good skier, who made a bet with friends from his club: participate in the ski world championships, under the colors of his country of origin. All that remains is to found a Haitian ski federation and convince the local Olympic committee, which necessarily does not care about a snow sport, geography requires. A fortiori after the terrible earthquake which has just ravaged the country.
A long-term project
But precisely. Jean-Pierre Roy hopes his project will create some joy and help strengthen the donation campaign for the battered island. He founded his federation, of which he is the president and sole representative, obtains the recognition of the International Ski Federation (FIS), manages to qualify for the Worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 2011. Mission accomplished? Far from it. During the following years, Jean-Pierre Roy endeavored to find young skiers capable of enlarging his troops. The Haitian pool being necessarily very limited, it also seeks on the side of adopted children. And hears about Richardson.
The young man arrived at the age of 3 near Briançon. His adoptive father, of Italian origin and high mountain guide, pushes him very quickly down the slope. “I joined my club at the age of 6 and slalomed between the poles quite quickly, but really hanging on from the age of 14-15, says the young man. I had a correct level, but not sufficient for the very high level. Jean-Pierre’s proposal has restarted everything. With his good humor, his energy, he took me on his project, which is very family-oriented, but serious nonetheless. “
Beginner support on the island
If the means of the Haitian Federation are quite limited (read opposite), the art of resourcefulness and the determination of the team allow us to move forward. New Haitian passport in his pocket, Richardson scours the races on the FIS circuit to garner points allowing him to open the doors to the Games. The first season is complicated, the second facilitated by the integration into the French private team Orsatus.
The points slowly accumulate until the participation in the Worlds in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy), in February 2021. Richardson is at the start of the giant slalom which the Frenchman Mathieu Faivre will soon take. “It was the first time that I was racing with the 50 best in the world, that I could see how they were concentrating, how they approached the track., remembers the skier, his voice full of emotion. I was very stressed, stiff as a broomstick. And yet I succeeded beyond all expectations. “ Richardson ranks 35e.
He will therefore not be in Beijing just for the anecdote, but to obtain a correct classification and proudly wear the colors of his country of origin. Although he has not yet returned, and ignores the real repercussions of his engagement on the island. “The nursery where he comes from supports him, the local media are starting to talk about it, a connection can be made”, assures Jean-Pierre Roy.
“If I can convey a message, it is to say that anything is possible if we fight and that we never give up, even if it also takes a little luck”, summarizes Richardson Viano. Who doesn’t want to see Beijing as an end: “My goal now is really high level skiing. A career is not just the Worlds or the Games. I have to improve because in the long term, I am aiming for the World Cup circuit. This is what I desire the most. “
A team that hopes to grow
Very skeptical at first, the Haitian Olympic Committee now supports the Haitian Ski Federation. “For ten years, we have shown consistency in our project, underlines Thierry Montillet, technical director of the federation and kingpin of the adventure since its beginnings. We benefit from an endowment from the FIS (International Ski Federation), which we have not touched in recent years, and which now allows us to partially finance the team. “
In addition to Richardson Viano, another skier, Mackenson Florindo, 19, entered in the Youth Olympic Games in 2020, is also expected to leave for Beijing with a substitute status. “There will be eight of us in the delegation for these Games. The International Olympic Committee should credit us with around € 18,000, and we are still looking for a sponsor ”, says Jean-Pierre Roy. The two leaders are counting on an Olympic Games effect to further expand a team which will welcome a specialist in freestyle and another in skicross next year.