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SOCHI, February 10. /ITAR-TASS/. Togolese athletes may surprise sport professionals and fans at the Sochi Winter Olympics, Bayor Kelani, a member of the International Boxing Federation, who leads Togo’s delegation to Sochi, said on Monday, February 10.
Togo is represented by two athletes: Italian-born alpine skier Alessia Afi Dipol and Nigerien-born skier Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean.
“We are happy to participate in the world-class sport forum,” Kelani said. “The Olympic movement brings together the whole world, and our goal is not victory, of course, but participation. We want to show ourselves to the whole world and probably surprise everyone,” she noted.
Kelani said his trip to Russia was an unforgettable adventure. “People in Russia are wonderful and hospitable, and the world’s best vodka is here. I admire people in Russia, especially Chechens - we have similar mentality. And there is nothing to complain about in Sochi: the food is delicious and the conditions are excellent,” Kelani said and thanked the Russian government for organising and holding the Olympic Games.
He admitted that only a few in Togo knew about the Olympic Games, but public interest in them had increased immensely after the grand opening ceremony at Sochi’s Fisht Stadium on February 7. “We have received several hundred calls and thousands of messages with congratulations and words of support. I hope that now people in Togo will show more interest in winter sports and the Olympic movement,” he said.
Togo’s flag at the opening ceremony was carried by Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean. She is 19 years old and she lived her entire life in France. She will start performing for Togo in 2013, after getting in touch with its National Olympic Committee through Facebook and offering her services.
“Then we met and quickly came to agreement. Her mother is from Togo, so there were no problems on the way. We hope that Petitjean will become a real skiing star and will lead the Togolese team for the next 10-15 years,” Kelani said.
In Sochi, Petitjean will compete in the 10km classic cross-country skiing competition on February 13.
Alessia Afi Dipol will compete in slalom and giant slalom. She is 18 years old and she lived her entire life in Italy. In 2012 and 2013 she performed for India.
“We have long-term plans for the winter sports,” Kelani said. “We hope that five Togolese athletes will compete at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea.”
Apart from Petitjean and Dopil, there are two other African athletes competing in Sochi: Luke Steyn (alpine skiing) for Zimbabwe and Adam Lamhamedi (alpine skiing) for Morocco.