Can an Out of Shape Nerd Make it to Sochi?

Could you go from unfit hopeful to Olympic athlete in a year? Here are six inspirational stories behind the Sochi Olympics.

Rachel Verity Rachel Verity

Bagiel

From time to time we all have those random moments where you suddenly feel that you can pull off something preposterous, like entering the Olympics for example. But once the drunken haze clears, most of us come to our senses. But not 36 year old US venture capitalist Paul Bragiel. His whimsical thought became a die hard ambition.

With ample funds in place, he put his day job on hold and went in search of a sport and a nation to take him on to fulfil his Olympic dream. Ten months later, the self described “chunky, out of shape computer nerd”, was a Colombian citizen ready to pit himself against some of the world’s best cross-country skiers in a bid to qualify for the Olympics.

However flippant Bragiel might sound, be rest assured that he didn’t just happen upon cross-country skiing. The decision was down to hours of analysis into which of the sports would be most accessible for someone who frankly didn’t have a leg to stand on. His short list included luge, bobsled, downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. By process of elimination he was left with cross country skiing, something he had never before tried.

Obviously getting selected for the US cross country skiing team would be virtually impossible, so with his choice of sport taken care of he just needed a country to take him on. As luck would have it, despite his lack of Spanish language, Colombian President Santos welcomed Bragiel into Colombia for his Olympic bid. Thus far things had been relatively simple, now all he had to do was qualify.

Unfortunately the qualifying standards are no easy feat. He needs to finish within eight to 12 minutes of the world’s best skiers in five international competitions. In April, Bragiel competed in his first distance run of 15km, which saw him finish in close to three hours. To put that in perspective, it would take the fastest Olympians 35 minutes. It was at this point that his reluctant coach gave him 1% chance of reaching the Olympics.

But ever the optimist, Bragiel has a race planned every week until the qualifying cut off point in mid January, and he still believes he can make it. If like us you’re hooked on this very unlikely story you can follow Bragiel’s journey here.

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