Peruvian who plans to ski in Olympics lives, trains in Seattle
Roberto Carcelen is a surfer and a runner, which does not make him unusual in his home country, Peru, but his newest sport does. He is aiming to...
New York Times News Service
Roberto Carcelen is a surfer and a runner, which does not make him unusual in his home country, Peru, but his newest sport does. He is aiming to be the lone Peruvian cross-country skier in the 2010 Olympics.
The 38-year-old Carcelen hardly fits the stereotype of an Olympic hopeful. He took up his pursuit about three years ago, after learning the sport from his American wife, Kate.
Carcelen, who lives and trains in Seattle, is one of a handful of South American skiers with sights set on the Vancouver Games.
"Cross-country skiing is considered the hardest sport in the world, and that aspect really attracted me," he said.
Although Peru has mountains and snow, it lacks a culture of cross-country skiing. But Carcelen has joined a small subset of skiers from Kenya, Ethiopia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, as well as not-so-snowy European countries such as Portugal and Ireland, creating a separate competition within international races.
"I want to become the best cross-country skier in South America," he said. "I can't come close to the Norwegians and the Italians, but I can become the top of the developing nations."
Aside from the Peruvian ski association's aiding him with the paperwork necessary to participate in the Olympics, Carcelen gets little help from outside his family. He works full time to chase his Olympic ambitions, consulting with Microsoft and operating a business called Inca Runners, which offers guided running tours of the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. He also looks after a 16-month-old daughter and said he hopes to find a coach who is willing to work with him for the next year.
"You have to prioritize, and this is important to me," Carcelen said. "I am consulting with Microsoft and running the guiding business in Peru, which gives me a very flexible schedule and allows me to train about three hours a day. My wife is very supportive. Without her, it would not be possible. She'll drive behind me for three hours while I roller-ski."
Carcelen, who met his wife online and moved to Seattle to marry her in 2003, started skiing in 2005 when Kate introduced him to the sport and coached him through his first seasons. Kate Carcelen is a skilled skier with a seemingly endless patience for her husband's effort. She works as a manager at Microsoft.
As the only participant from a developing country, Roberto Carcelen already is guaranteed an entry in the 15-kilometer race. He also hopes to enter the pursuit race and the sprint, but those events have qualifying standards. His best bet to reach those standards is to compete in the 2009 World Championships in February in the Czech Republic.
"Most of the athletes I'll be competing with at the Olympics have been doing the sport since they were born," Carcelen said. "They train full time and have 24/7 coaching. That's a whole different lifestyle. I think I can give 100 percent of myself and prove to myself that I can measure myself to the best in the world."
Carcelen said he had put more than $20,000 into his pursuit so far and would spend $30,000 more before the Games start. Once he is in British Columbia, seeing how well he can perform will be reward enough, he said.
Carcelen said his experiences as a surfer and a runner had helped prepare him. "Skiing is a good sport and a lot like surfing," he said. "I like the gliding. It engages all the muscles, and it's hard."
He added: "I think running in the Andes has given me a higher-than-average aerobic capacity, and surfing has taught me gliding and balance."
Although Peru has a long coastline that is good for surfing, it also has plenty of snow at altitude, but cross-country skiing has not caught on.
"I want people to know Peru as a country that has snow and the potential to create successful cross-country skiers," Carcelen said.
Although last month was an exception, Seattle is not known for snow.
"Roberto is like many of us," said Kent Murdoch, a multiple medalist in the World Masters cross-country championships who is a member of Carcelen's training group.
"He wants to see how far he can go. But what impresses me every day is that he is doing it in a new arena, and with a drive and intensity that most people just dream about."
For the past couple of years, Carcelen said, he has been devouring every piece of literature on training and cross-country skiing he has come across, whether online or in print.
"I read a lot, I talk to people I know in the Seattle racing community and I study the principles of training and specificity through online blogs," he said. "But this season, I think I will hire a coach."
If so, Carcelen's singular quest will become a little less solitary.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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