As nearly superhuman athletes in skin-tight, hit-tech outfits that cost more than brand-new vehicles slide across ice and snow in this year’s Winter Olympic Games, some will surely push the limits and break human records.
Arturo Kinch is not one of those athletes, but as he struggled to his second-to last-place finish in the 15-kilometer crosscountry ski event, the eyes of the world were watching.
Kinch, Costa Rica’s sole representative in this year’s Winter Olympics, being held in Turin, Italy, finished more than 30 minutes after the first-place winner slid across the finish line to glory and championship.
But his participation, representing a country with no snow, has captured the attention of The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and many other major international news media.
The seventh of 11 children born to a missionary couple, Kinch grew up in Costa Rica before moving to Colorado, in the United States, to attend RockmountCollege (now ColoradoChristianUniversity) in 1974. There, he picked up skiing as a way to stay in shape, and decided to form his own Olympic committee and team to represent his home country in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, held in Lake Placid, Vermont, in the United States, according to a biography of Kinch on the University Web site.
That was the first appearance of a Costa Rican in the Winter Olympic Games (TT, Feb. 29, 1980).
Since then, Kinch, who will turn 50 in April, has competed in five Winter Olympic Games, never ranking high enough to make it into the Olympic biography, according to the Los Angeles Times. He often is his own coach and trainer. This year, he carried the Costa Rican flag in the opening ceremonies accompanied by his fiancée, chiropractor and doctor. After caring for his father, who passed away two weeks before the games, Kinch had to use stock options to get a loan so he could buy his ticket and board his plane, 10 minutes before departure, the Los Angeles Times reported.
At this year’s race, Kinch fell out of his skis at the starting line, but battled back to beat Prawat Ngvajara – a 47-year-old Thai computer engineering professor from Philadelphia, representing Thailand – by 25 seconds.
“I’m an athlete at heart, and I still believe I can compete,” Kinch told The Miami Herald. “I’m a fierce competitor, even at my age.”