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Winter Olympics: Taking the piste .. skier from Fiji.

Byline: TED TRACEY

A DRUNKEN idea becomes sober reality today when Laurence Thoms skis for Fiji in the giant slalom.

Thoms is the first athlete in Winter Olympics history to represent the South Sea paradise where temperatures average 80 degrees and the only ice is found melting in cocktail glasses.

The 21-year-old only took up skiing three years ago and is in Salt Lake City because of a boozy party.

Toni Hauswirth was celebrating his 50th birthday in the replica Swiss chalet he owns in Fiji five years ago when he suggested the island should form a ski team.

He said: "There was a lot of alcohol involved when we came up with the idea.

"But if I have something in my head I usually get it done.

"It was a little crazy."

Thoms was born in Fiji to a Fijian mother and New Zealander father. When he was two he moved to New Zealand and has only spent holidays in his homeland since.

He carried the Fijian flag at the opening ceremony to huge roars. "I felt pretty stunned," he said. "All those people."

Thoms switched from snowboarding to skiing after his aunt spotted a newspaper advert that said: "Applicants required for Fiji Alpine Ski team. No experience needed."

His career got off to a bad start when he broke a leg in New Mexico but he fought back to qualify for the Olympics by winning races in Europe and New Zealand.

Thoms admits he has no chance of a medal.

He said: "I'm heading back to Fiji as soon as this is over. I want to lie in the sun and warm up again."

A Belarusian ski-jumper has failed to return home to the former Soviet republic from Salt Lake City.

Andrej Lyskovec failed to show up at the airport to fly back with his coach.

Lyskovec came in 42nd in the K90 individual jumps and 59th in the K120.

Deputy sports minister Alexander Grigorov said Lyskovets had called his wife to tell her he would be home in a month, although he did not explain why.

Officials don't think he has defected.

They believe he has stayed to earn cash from commercial competitions.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 21, 2002
Words:366
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