His story might just have you cheering for Portugal in the upcoming Winter Olympics.
An Okanagan cross-country skier is one of only two athletes the small European country is sending to the Games.
For Kequyen Lam, 38, going to the Olympics means realizing a dream he’s held for two decades.
The Okanagan pharmacist got the confirmation this week that he will be representing Portugal in cross-country skiing in PyeongChang next month.
“It’s going to be tough. It is going to be the toughest thing that we’ve done on skis and I think that is going to be the fun part,” Lam said.
In some ways Lam’s journey to represent Portugal began before he was born.
“My parents had fled Vietnam because of the war and there was no future there. So they jumped on a boat. [After] a month-long voyage in a rickety boat, they made it to Macau and they lived in a refugee camp,” Lam explained.
Lam was born in Macau, which was, at the time, a Portuguese colony. He moved to Canada as an infant and grew up in Abbotsford, leaving him with Canadian and Portuguese citizenship.
“Twenty years ago I was inspired to pursue the Olympics because I watched the 1998 Nagano games and Ross Rebagliati won the gold. When he came back home to Whistler and he was standing on a balcony in front of the crowd and just yelled the word ‘Whistler,’ that inspired me,” Lam said.
“I wanted to become an Olympian at that point and I have been pursuing the dream for 20 years.”
He first chased Olympic glory in snowboard cross but was injured in 2013.
Not one to give up on his Olympic dreams, Lam turned to cross-country skiing. His first competitive race in that discipline was just over two years ago.
“I basically travelled the world in the last year just… training hard and chasing points. When you are determined and you know there is something that you want and you go after it, you’ll get it.”
This week he learned it was official. All the hard work had paid off and he will be heading to PyeongChang to compete next month, supported by his Vernon coach.
“Lots of emotions,” Glenn Bond said. “[I’m] super happy for Kequyen [and] excited.”
“He has been training really, really hard for many, many years.”
Lam is one of only two athletes Portugal is sending to the Winter Games. (Giving him a 50/50 chance of carrying the flag in the opening ceremony.)
“I’m not doing anything really special. I’m someone who has a passion and I’ve realized a dream,” said Lam.
“I hope that other people can see that. If it inspires one kid to pick up a sport and to pursue their dreams, then that’s more than enough.”
As he glides towards realizing his own goal, Lam hoping to create new Olympic moments for the next generation and raise the profile of his sport.
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