Haiti Quotidien

Jean Pierre Roy Showing That Haiti Is Still Alive

www.haitiquotidien.com - Thursday February 17, 2011

"When I saw all the misery, I thought I have to do something for my country," said Roy about the journey


GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany -- Jean-PierreRoy is not a household name on the World Cup ski tour, but he is an interesting character with a very strong message.

Roy, 47, is the lone representative on the Haitian Ski Team. That's right - the Haitian Ski Team. On Tuesday, he was styling in his brand new colorfully-adorned Haitian team speed suit, eager to tear up the mountain.

Born in Haiti, Roy emigrated from his homeland on a boat along with his parents when he was just two. He grew up near Paris and began skiing recreationally through a school program at the age of eight.

Having dabbled in racing over the past five years at various French resorts, a light bulb went off in Roy's head during a visit back to Haiti this past October.

"When I saw all the misery, I thought I have to do something for my country," said Roy about the journey. "It seems like the earthquake was just yesterday. I got the idea to go to the world championships and let the world know that Haiti is still there."

"Every time you speak about Haiti it is a disaster," he continued. "It is very poor, there is Cholera and political troubles. I want to communicate to all that Haiti is a nation that maybe you can think about in a positive way."

Serious about his plight, Roy officially established the Federation Haitienne De Ski (FHS) with ski racing's governing body, the FIS. It cost him 50 Euros. He assigned the positions of General Secretary and Cash Manager to two of his cousins back in Haiti. This was the first critical step for the wannabe racer.

Next, Roy had to partake in various FIS races to earn points in order to be allowed to compete at the world championships.

"The first time, it was the worst race I had in my life," said Roy. "It was foggy, icy, snowy, no visibility and very dangerous."

On the piste and wherever else he goes, Roy is accompanied by Thierry Montillet, a French ski instructor who serves as his coach, technician, manager, public relations director and probably sports psychologist. They are a somewhat cohesive two-man team on the hill.

"Thierry kept saying JP, you have to finish the race - don't get disqualified," he explained. "I started 92nd, in the first run I was last and in the second run I was also last, but I made it down."

Roy finished 25th out of 25 racers, but earned valuable points.

Montillet told me that occasionally Roy disappears during training, likely on his phone handling the countless interview requests that have come in as of late.

On Monday, February 7th, Roy walked in the opening ceremony of these championships along with Montillet, proudly carrying the Haitian flag.

"It was big emotions for me," said Roy about the evening, which was attended by German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Next up for Roy in this long and complicated process was preparing for yet another qualifier - in giant slalom here today in Garmisch - with hopes of making it into tomorrow's race with marquee names like Ted Ligety, Aksel Lund Svindal and Carlo Janka. On Saturday, he will be get a second chance to qualify in the slalom.

"I went to the Swiss House the other night and met Didier Cuche," said Roy with excitement in his eyes. "Didier gave me some good advice."

And what was the advice?

"It's a secret, I'd like to keep it for myself," he said becoming very serious with me.

I guess Roy figured that maybe I'd run with it to the Austrian downhillers.

During his busy time here in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Roy has hung out with Italian ski legend, Alberto Tomba and met Bode Miller, Lindsey Vonn and Maria Riesch receiving encouragement and support from the elite racers.

In regards to what the 47-year-old Haitian, who is a grandfather, hopes to accomplish over these world championships?

"I am here for a white gold medal," he says, explaining it is his own reward for success in conveying his important message.

"Everyone has said to me, go on Jean-Pierre, go on Jean-Pierre' and this has given me the power and the energy. Because I know that when I go to the icy slope to qualify, I'll be really, really scared. It will be icy and injected," he said.

In Thursday's qualifying run which featured over 120 competitors, Roy managed to successfully make it down the slope, a victory in itself. He finished 99th of the 99 racers who finished their runs. His two-run time was 3:10.58, nearly a minute slower than the fastest skier.

Unfortunately, Roy will not be at the GS start tomorrow with Ligety, Cuche and the other top guns. He will get a second chance in the slalom on Saturday.

However, the most important thing is that Roy has aptly conveyed his message about Haiti during these World Championships. No matter what his times are or the style in which he makes it down the race hill, he has definitively won his white gold medal.