Tropical nations at the Winter Olympics

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Ghana entering the stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Although traditionally associated with cold-weather nations, the Winter Olympics have also had participation from several nations in the tropical latitudes. The typical climate of these nations is not conducive to participation in winter sports, and no Winter Olympic medals have ever been won by a tropical nation. Partly because of that, their entries are a subject of human interest stories during the Games.[1][2][3]

The first participating warm-weather nation in the Winter Games was Mexico. Much of Mexico is at a latitude north of the Tropic of Cancer, and most of the country has a subtropical highland or semi-arid climate, so it is not exclusively a tropical nation. Nonetheless, Mexico made its Winter debut at the 1928 Winter Olympics[4] with a five-man bobsleigh team that finished eleventh of twenty-three entrants.[5] Mexico did not return again to the Winter Games until 1984.[6]

The first truly tropical nation to compete in the Winter Olympic Games is the Philippines, who sent two alpine skiers to the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.[7] Ben Nanasca placed 42nd in the giant slalom event (out of 73 entrants), and Juan Cipriano did not finish. In the slalom event, neither skier was able to finish. Costa Rica became the second tropical nation to participate at the Winter Games, in 1980 at Lake Placid, New York,[8] where Arturo Kinch also competed in alpine skiing events. Kinch would continue to compete for Costa Rica at three more Winter Games, including the 2006 Games at age 49. There he finished 96th in the 15 km cross-country skiing event, ahead of only Prawat Nagvajara of Thailand, another tropical nation.[3][9]

The 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada attracted a large number of tropical nations, including Costa Rica, Fiji, Guam, Guatemala, Jamaica, Netherlands Antilles, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands.[10] The Jamaican Bobsled Team became a fan favorite at these Games[11] and were later the inspiration behind the 1993 motion picture Cool Runnings. In the 1994 Games six years later, the Jamaican four man sled placed a creditable fourteenth, ahead of the United States and Russia, while a Jamaican bobsledder Lascelles Brown won silver for Canada in 2006.

The 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy marked the Winter Games debut of Ethiopia[2] and Madagascar.[12] The 2010 Games in Vancouver, Canada saw the debut of the Cayman Islands, Colombia, Peru,[13] and Ghana.[14] The 2014 Winter Olympics saw the debut of Dominica, Paraguay, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga and Zimbabwe.

List of participating tropical nations[edit]

World map with tropical latitudes highlighted in red
World map with tropical climates highlighted in red

This list of nations includes those that lie entirely or predominantly within the tropical latitudes and also have a mostly tropical climate according to the Köppen climate classification system. Years of Winter Olympic Games participation are shown.

 Cameroon (CMR) 2002
 Ethiopia (ETH) 2006–2010
 Ghana (GHA) 2010
 Kenya (KEN) 1998–2006
 Madagascar (MAD) 2006
 Senegal (SEN) 1984, 1992–1994, 2006–2010
 Togo (TOG) 2014
 Zimbabwe (ZIM) 2014
 British Virgin Islands (IVB) 1984, 2014
 Cayman Islands (CAY) 2010–2014
 Dominica (DMA) 2014
 Jamaica (JAM) 1988–2002, 2010–2014
 Netherlands Antilles (AHO) 1988–1992
 Puerto Rico (PUR) 1984–2002
 Trinidad and Tobago (TRI) 1994–2002
 Virgin Islands (ISV) 1988–2006, 2014
Central and South America
 Bolivia (BOL) 1956, 1980-1992
 Brazil (BRA) 1992–2014
 Colombia (COL) 2010
 Costa Rica (CRC) 1980–1992, 2006
 Guatemala (GUA) 1988
 Honduras (HON) 1992
 Paraguay (PAR) 2014
 Peru (PER) 2010–2014
 Venezuela (VEN) 1998–2006, 2014
 American Samoa (ASA) 1994
 Fiji (FIJ) 1988, 1994, 2002
 Guam (GUM) 1988
 Tonga (TGA) 2014
 Hong Kong (HKG) 2002–2014
 Philippines (PHI) 1972, 1988–1992, 2014
 Thailand (THA) 2002–2006, 2014
 Timor-Leste (TLS) 2014

Other warm-weather nations (located in the subtropics, for example) that have competed in the Winter Games include Australia (which has a tropical far north, and became the first Southern Hemisphere nation to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in 2002), Bermuda, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, India (which contains a section of the Himalayas), Mexico, South Africa, Swaziland, Uruguay and several North African nations including Algeria, Egypt and Morocco.

Tonga sought to make its Winter Olympic debut at the 2010 Winter Olympics by entering a single competitor in luge, attracting some media attention, but he crashed in the final round of qualifying.[15] Two years later, he attracted media attention again when it was discovered he had altered his name to that of one of his sponsors, a lingerie firm, as a marketing stunt. He was, at that time, in training to attempt to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics.[16][17]

Notable winter Olympians from tropical nations[edit]

Philip Boit was the first Kenyan to participate in the Winter Olympics.
Lamine Guèye, the first Black African skier to take part in a Winter Olympics.
Michael Christian Martinez, the first Southeast Asian and Filipino figure skater to take part in the Winter Olympics. He is also the first figure skater from the tropical zone to compete in the Winter Olympics, as well as being the first Philippine Winter Olympian in 22 years.
Name Nation Sport
Abernathy, AnneAnne Abernathy Virgin Islands luge
Banani, BrunoBruno Banani Tonga luge
Bankert, JuddJudd Bankert Guam biathlon
Boccalandro, IginiaIginia Boccalandro Venezuela luge
Boit, PhilipPhilip Boit Kenya cross-country skiing
Brown, LascellesLascelles Brown Jamaica[nb 1] bobsleigh
Carcelen, RobertoRoberto Carcelen Peru cross-country skiing
Clark Ribeiro, IsabelIsabel Clark Ribeiro Brazil snowboarding
Denzler, CynthiaCynthia Denzler Colombia alpine skiing
Fraser, ErrollErroll Fraser British Virgin Islands speed skating
Guèye, LamineLamine Guèye Senegal alpine skiing
Hoeger, WernerWerner Hoeger Venezuela luge
Kerr, ErrolErrol Kerr Jamaica freestyle skiing
Kinch, ArturoArturo Kinch Costa Rica alpine skiing and cross-country skiing
Maleson, EricEric Maleson Brazil bobsleigh
Christian Martinez, MichaelMichael Christian Martinez Philippines figure skating
McNeilly, AndrewAndrew McNeilly Trinidad and Tobago bobsleigh
Menyoli, IsaacIsaac Menyoli Cameroon cross-country skiing
Mizoguchi, RenatoRenato Mizoguchi Brazil luge
Nagvajara, PrawatPrawat Nagvajara Thailand cross-country skiing
Nkrumah-Acheampong, KwameKwame Nkrumah-Acheampong Ghana alpine skiing
Ocampo, RaymondRaymond Ocampo Philippines luge
Raschini, RicardoRicardo Raschini Brazil bobsleigh and luge
Razanakolona, MathieuMathieu Razanakolona Madagascar alpine skiing
Rogoyawa, RusiateRusiate Rogoyawa Fiji cross-country skiing
Seck, LeytiLeyti Seck Senegal alpine skiing
Teklemariam, RobelRobel Teklemariam Ethiopia cross-country skiing
Teruel, MichaelMichael Teruel Philippines alpine skiing
Thoms, LaurenceLaurence Thoms Fiji alpine skiing
Travers, DowDow Travers Cayman Islands alpine skiing
Tucker, GeorgeGeorge Tucker Puerto Rico luge
Vanakorn, VanessaVanessa Vanakorn Thailand alpine skiing
von Hohenlohe, HubertusHubertus von Hohenlohe Mexico alpine skiing

Winter Paralympic Games[edit]

As of 2014, only two tropical nations have been represented at the Winter Paralympic Games.[18] Tofiri Kibuuka of Uganda competed in cross-country skiing at the inaugural edition of the Winter Paralympics in 1976 and again at the 1980 Games.[19] After Kibuuka obtained Norwegian nationality, he began to compete for Norway at the Paralympics starting in 1984, winning several medals in athletics at the Summer Paralympics. Brazil sent two athletes as part of its debut at the 2014 Winter Paralympics.

 Uganda (UGA) 1976–1980
 Brazil (BRA) 2014
Name Nation Sport
Kibuuka, TofiriTofiri Kibuuka Uganda cross-country skiing
Aranha, FernandoFernando Aranha Brazil cross-country skiing
Cintra, AndréAndré Cintra Brazil snowboard cross

Winter Youth Olympic Games[edit]

Five tropical nations were represented at the First Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

 Eritrea (ERI) 2012
 Kenya (KEN) 2016
 Cayman Islands (CAY) 2012
 Brazil (BRA) 2012–2016
 Colombia (COL) 2016
 Jamaica (JAM) 2016
 Peru (PER) 2012
 Philippines (PHI) 2012
 Malaysia (MAS) 2016
 Timor-Leste (TLS) 2016

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brown competed for Jamaica in the 2002 Games, but has competed for Canada since 2006.


  1. ^ Brown, Gerry. "Beyond the Jamaican Bobsledders". Infoplease. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  2. ^ a b "Ethiopia first at Winter Olympics". BBC News. 2006-02-10. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  3. ^ a b Bunce, Steve (2006-02-17). "The crazy race - only the potty need apply". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-01-31. [dead link]
  4. ^ Comité Olympique Suisse (1928). Rapport Général du Comité Exécutif des IImes Jeux Olympiques d'hiver (PDF) (in French). Lausanne: Imprimerie du Léman. p. 7. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  5. ^ Comité Olympique Suisse (1928). Résultats des Concours des IImes Jeux Olympiques d'hiver (PDF) (in French). Lausanne: Imprimerie du Léman. pp. 12–13. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  6. ^ Official Report of the Organising Committee of the XlVth Winter Olympic Games 1984 at Sarajevo (PDF). Sarajevo: Oslobodenje. 1984. pp. 89–90. Retrieved 2009-01-31. 
  7. ^ The Official Report of XIth Winter Olympic Games, Sapporo 1972 (PDF). The Organizing Committee for the Sapporo Olympic Winter Games. 1973. pp. 32, 145, 447. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  8. ^ Final Report XIII Olympic Winter Games (PDF). Ed Lewi Associates. pp. 6, 12, 19. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  9. ^ "Turin 2006 Winter Olympics - Cross Country Results". Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on 2007-03-22. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  10. ^ Janofsky, Michael (1988-02-07). "'88 Winter Olympics; Calgary Has It Down Cold". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  11. ^ Harasta, Cathy (1988-02-20). "Jamaican bobsledders want to dispel jokes about tropical entry in wintry sport". The Dallas Morning News. 
  12. ^ "Madagascar prepares for its first winter Olympic appearance ever in Turin 2006" (PDF) (Press release). November 28, 2005. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  13. ^ Brewer, Jerry (February 4, 2010). "Peruvian cross-country skier Roberto Carcelén reaches Olympic dream". The Seattle Times. 
  14. ^ Wyatt, Ben; Gittings, Paul (February 27, 2010). "Snow Leopard continues proud African tradition at Winter Games". CNN. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  15. ^ Hofman, Helene (February 1, 2010). "Tongan athlete narrowly misses out on Winter Olympics". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 
  16. ^ "Tonga's chosen one takes aim at Sochi luging", Vancouver Sun, 2 December 2011
  17. ^ "Outside Edge: Liar, liar, pants on fire in the snow", The Independent, 5 February 2012
  18. ^ "IPC Historical Results database". International Paralympic Committee. 
  19. ^ Results for Tofiri Kibuuka from the International Paralympic Committee