By Philip O’Connor
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 13 (Reuters) – Iran’s Samaneh Beyrami Baher may have come dead last in Olympic sprint qualifying, but she crossed the line bursting with pride at being the only female in her country’s cross-country skiing team.
Sporting a hijab on a freezing Korean evening, Baher battled round the 1,176-metre course in a time of 4:47.91, over a minute and a half behind winner Stina Nilsson of Sweden, but her pride was undimmed.
“It’s much colder than Iran, Iran is not like here. I’m so proud of myself, I was not bad,” Baher told Reuters, adding that her pride would be shared by Iranian people around the globe.
“I think they can be proud because they know my situation, we don’t have snow in Iran. They can think about it and be proud of me. Just coming and participating in the Olympics is a very good experience and a very good thing,” the 26-year-old said.
Although she was well off the pace on her Olympic debut, Baher felt inspired to be taking part and the crowd gave her a rousing reception as she crossed the line.
“I was excited because it’s my first experience in the Olympic game. Here, there are great champions and very big competition,” she said.
“I’m proud of myself, but I see myself as weak compared to the other competitors because they are very strong. In Iran we just have three months of snow and we cannot train all the year, we have to go running.”
Also entered in the 10km freestyle race, Baher will leave the celebrating to her family for now.
“They are all happy, all the family are telling people that their daughter is going to the Olympics, they are so happy,” she said.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor, editing by Ed Osmond)