Thu, Feb 15, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Kosovo’s downhill dentist extracts most from debut Games

Reuters, PYEONGCHANG, South Korea

Albin Tahiri of Kosovo competes in the men’s downhill part of the Alpine combined on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

Dentist Albin Tahiri has waited years to become Kosovo’s first Winter Olympian and now that he has made it to Pyeongchang, he is not doing things by halves.

Tahiri, whose country declared independence from Serbia a decade ago, is the only Kosovar athlete at the Games and plans to take part in all five individual Alpine skiing events before going home to pick up his drill again.

In his first outing on Tuesday in the men’s combined, where many better-known skiers took tumbles as they strained to pick up time on the slalom leg, he was doggedly determined to make it to the bottom of the course and claimed 37th place.

“It was really icy, so I had a lot of problems, but when I saw the other guys fall out, I decided just to finish it because it’s our first race and I wanted to finish my first competition at the Olympics,” he told reporters at the foot of the mountain.

Born in Slovenia to a Slovenian mother and a Kosovo-Albanian father, Tahiri has long dreamed of representing Kosovo at the Olympics, but the nation, which lacks ideal skiing conditions, only received International Olympic Committee recognition in 2014.

“They have mountains, but the infrastructure is really bad. The chairlifts are really old, especially, the slope is not prepared all the time,” he said.

For that reason, he trains mostly in Austria, Italy and Slovenia, where he lives, and has just graduated in dentistry — a subject that seems to excite him as much as skiing.

“During these years that I’ve been waiting for Kosovo becoming Olympic family I just simply decided not to wait and to study instead — so I graduated in dentistry, which was my passion. Actually, oral surgery is my passion,” he said.

“I just graduated now, I have one more year of internship and then I’m thinking about full mouth reconstruction with implantation and so on, something like that, a bit of oral surgery, a bit of prosthetics. Maybe I’ll fix some things from the skiers... No, I’m just kidding,” he added.

The downhill specialist, who turns 29 today, is already turning his thoughts to 2022.

He sees a good fit between his sporting and dental interests: “With private practice, I’ll have more money to train.”

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