Far From the madding crowd’s ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Our Culture’s fascination with winning too frequently obscures those individuals that compete valiantly without any prospect of a medal for their effort. They remain unrewarded by fame and fortune, yet they press on, carrying the flag of their country while representing themselves proudly, without illusion or self-doubt; without malice to those more gifted or privileged than they. Are these people any less heroic than the golden gods we worship on their vaunted podia of success? I suppose this is a debatable question; however, its my blog and, over the next couple of weeks, my goal to highlight a few of the “Invisible” Olympians that finish last in their particular events since the winners are getting more than enough adulation without any contribution from me. Today’s honoree is Turkey’s cross country skier, Kelime Aydyn Cetinkaya .
The Sochi Olympic Ladies’ Skiathlon 7.5km Classic + 7.5 km Free was held Saturday to a throng of Norwegian fans who were hardly disappointed with their team’s near sweep of the precious hardware. Crews of adoring journalists captured the finale as the top competitors crossed the finish line, many dropping to the snow to bask in their celebratory exhaustion. Eight minutes later, likely in the midst of an uncomfortable silence from a few straggling spectators, Turkey’s Kelime Cetinkaya crossed the finish line. In a field of 61 contestants, Cetinkaya finished dead last, a half minute behind her closest competitor.
Kelime is from the Selim District of the Province of Kars in Eastern Turkey. She began skiing at age 12, not because she dreamed of being famous; rather, her friends were doing it and she wanted to join them. Along with her friends, she entered a ski race soon afterward and placed third, garnishing the attention of race organizers who recommended she attend a sponsored camp for promising young skiers. Originally drawn to slalom skiing, her coaches instead steered her toward cross-country. Six years later, at the age of 18, she became Turkey’s first female Winter Olympian, at the Salt Lake Winter Games in 2002. She went on the compete in the Torino (06) and Vancouver (10) Winter Games where she was honored to be flag bearer at the opening ceremony. In addition to the Winter Games, she was a torch-bearer for the 2012 Summer Games in London.
Now, age 31, Kelime is a part of her fourth Olympics, a feat that most athletes only dream of. During her career as a cross-country skier, she has received a degree in Sports Studies from Kafkas University, married, and had a son. In addition to competing for her Country, she is also a coach for the Turkish national cross-country ski team.
When asked to name a famous cross-country skier, few outside of Turkey would ever mention Cetinkaya; however she is indeed a star for her achievement as well as her commitment to the sport she represents with no expectation of fanfare. I salute you Kelime. Although invisible to most, you are indeed a hero.