February 11, 2018 / 9:51 AM / in 4 months

Alpine skier: Pyeongchang Games more 'personal' for East Timor skier

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Four years after finishing last at Sochi, Alpine skier Yohan Goncalves Goutt says he is back to promote tiny East Timor at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Opening ceremony – Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea – February 9, 2018 - Yohan Goncalves Goutt of Timor-Leste carries the national flag during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

“I am not really aiming for a medal,” the 23-year-old Olympian told Reuters Television. “I came back to show to the world my flag and talk about Timor as much as I can.”

French-born Goncalves Goutt, who started skiing in the Alps at the age of two, made his Winter Olympic debut representing the tiny southeast Asian country at the 2014 Sochi Games.

He was the 43rd and final finisher in the men’s slalom in Sochi out of a starting field of 115.

“I really hope I can come down that slope and improve my time and have a much better time than Sochi and conserve a top 50,” he said. “That would be great.”

Representing East Timor, whose language Tetum does not have a word for skiing, was part of his international claim to fame four years ago, he said.

These games are more personal for Goncalves Goutt, who was born to a French father and Timorese mother. She was a child refugee to Australia from the country also known as Timor Leste.

A former Portuguese colony northwest of the Australian city of Darwin, East Timor declared its independence in 1975 but was then invaded by Indonesia. One of the poorest countries in the world, it became a sovereign state only in 2002.

“To the world maybe that is how I appeal, like an exotic fruit, but it is a more personal thing as well,” he said.

“My uncle’s fight for the independence of Timor... It was a way for me to give back as well. So there is a lot of personal stuff involved for me representing Timor each day.”

Additional reporting by Yiming Woo, editing by Darren Schuettler and Clare Fallon

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