This year, Pyeongchang will host over 2,000 athletes from 92 countries.

Talia Avakian
February 08, 2018

The 2018 Winter Olympics will kick off this week in Pyeongchang, South Korea, marking the first time in 30 years that the country will be hosting the games after the Summer Olympics took place in Seoul in 1988.

But South Korea isn’t the only country that will have an historic moment during this year’s Winter Olympic Games.

Six countries will be making their debut in the Winter Olympics, which will host over 2,000 athletes across 92 countries.

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A majority of the competing athletes on these new teams are representing the countries their parents migrated from rather than where they grew up.

Below is a list of the countries coming to the Winter Olympics for the first time and what you can expect from each.

Ecuador

Though snowfall isn’t a sight you’ll commonly see in Ecuador, the country will be making its debut with an athlete competing in cross country skiing. 

Getty Images/Jesse Kraft/EyeEm

Klaus Jungbluth Rodriguez will be representing the country in this year’s games as the first Ecuadorian to reach the Winter Olympics and will carry the country’s flag during the opening ceremony. 

Klaus, who will be participating in the 15 km race on Feb. 16, is nicknamed the “tarmac skier” because he spent his younger years training on the cycle paths and country roads of Guayaquil with rollerskis due to the lack of snow found in Ecuador.

Eritrea

The country of Eritrea, which is located in northeast Africa on the Red Sea Coast, will also make its debut at an Olympic Winter Games with 21-year-old Shannon-Ogbani Abeda, who will be competing in the alpine skiing slalom and giant slalom events.

Both of Abeda’s parents immigrated from the country to Alberta, Canada, where the athlete was born.

Working on those starts #riseandgrind #roadtopyeongchang #olympics #eritrea

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Abeda got his start competing at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck back in 2012, securing several top-20 spots on the FIS circuit to make it to the 2018 Winter Olympics. He will also be carrying the country’s flag at both the opening and closing ceremonies.

Kosovo 

In 2014, the International Olympic Committee recognized Kosovo’s ability to compete as an independent nation, allowing the country to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio. Alpine skier Albin Tahiri will be representing the country’s first participation in the Winter Games, competing in the men’s downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, and alpine combined events.

Getty Images/Suphanat Wongsanuphat

The 28-year-old athlete, who was born in Slovenia, will be representing his father’s home country. He learned to ski at a young age in Slovenia, where alpine skiing is a popular activity. His father introduced him to the sport.

Tahiri, who will also be the country’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, became the first alpine skier to represent the country at the 2017 world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Malaysia 

Malaysia will have two competitors at this year’s winter games.

Jeffrey Webb, who is 18, will be competing in men’s alpine skiing. After moving to the U.S. around the age of five, Webb spent the majority of his time training in the states while visiting Malaysia for about three months each year, according to the Malaysian Digest. An interest in the sport runs in Webb’s family, as his mother is also the vice president of Ski Malaysia, according to the publication.

Getty Images/Patrick Foto

Webb became the first Malaysian to compete at the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, last year. 

Malaysia will also have 20-year-old Julian Zhi-jie Yee competing in the men's figure skating events on Feb. 16 and 17. Yee’s mother, who was the former vice president of the Malaysian Ice Skating Association, introduced him and his brothers to the sport back in 2001.

Originally training at the local ice rinks found in shopping malls, the athlete told the Malaysian Digest, he eventually moved to Canada in 2016 for snowier conditions better suited for training. He will be the country’s flag-bearer during the opening ceremony.

Nigeria 

The 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang will showcase Nigeria's first bobsled team. Moriam Seun Adigun set out to build the country’s first bobsled team in 2016, teaming up with Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga to create Nigeria’s National Bobsled Federation.

The three athletes, all of whom grew up and studied in America and were known as track athletes, created a GoFundMe campaign to secure funding for the training, equipment, and travel expenses needed to represent the country in this year’s Winter Olympics.

They will be the first Nigerian athletes delegated to compete at an Olympic Winter Games alongside Simidele Adeagbo, who will be competing in the skeleton events.

Adeagbo, who has been involved in a variety of sports for years, took up the sport in Calgary, Canada, last year after taking a nine-year hiatus from athletics. After discovering that Nigeria had never had a representative in the sport, she decided to compete for the spot. 

Singapore

Cheyenne Goh will be the first Singaporean athlete to compete at the Winter Games, racing in the women’s 1500m on Feb. 17.

The 18-year-old athlete, who has been based in Canada since the age of four, first played ice hockey before eventually turning to short track speed skating.

In Singapore, the athlete trains at the country's only Olympic sized-rink, which is at the JCube mall, she told Channel NewsAsia. According to the cable television news agency, the athlete trains six times a week for a minimum of six hours a day.

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