Her heart racing and stomach tightening, Celine Marti stands in the start gate and focuses on her breathing. With seconds to go, she looks out at the vertiginous slope in front of her and thinks about her daughter, her parents, and the Haitian people she is representing. Against the odds, she has made it.
The clock starts beeping. She flies out of the gate and down the mountain. She feels liberated.
As the 39-year-old crosses the finishing line, she raises her arms and charms the crowd with her infectious smile. It is, she says, an “explosion of the senses.”
Marti finished 52nd in her race, the slalom at last month’s World Ski Championships, over a minute behind champion Mikaela Shiffrin. Two days earlier, she had come 82nd in the giant slalom. But her participation in Are, Sweden was never about winning. She doesn’t ski to win. It is about love, determination, overcoming adversity.
“I have a saying: If you have a dream, you walk and you go,” the Haitian tells CNN Sport. “The start of the race is a difficult moment, but when you arrive at the end it is so exciting. I love the difficult things. That’s my spirit.”
As a baby Marti, who will be 40 in April, was found on the streets of Haiti by missionary workers. She was adopted by a Swiss couple from Geneva who ignored warnings that the then nine-month-old was not expected to live for much longer.
“It’s difficult to know exactly what I had, but I wasn’t in good health,” recalls Marti, who now has an adopted child of her own and works as a police officer in Geneva airport.