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When you're a little fish swimming in a vast ocean among giant whales and vicious sharks no publicity is bad. And, additionally, who says the publicity that Dominica received from its participation at the recently concluded Winter Olympics in Sochi was bad? That's the argument, whether you agree or not, that the Dominica Olympic Committee (DOC) presented at a press conference at the Fort Young Hotel last Saturday.

"Dominica is relatively unknown internationally but its people are indomitable in spirit and capability," said DOC president Felix Wilson reading from a prepared statement.

Wilson added: "Dominica attendance at Olympic Games gives an identity to a small island state so often confused with the Dominican Republic. Attending the Games in Sochi with two qualified Dominicans in Cross-Country Skiing meant proudly having the national flag flown at all venues, extensive media coverage and curiosity of our country's potential".

Dominica made its Winter Olympics debut at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia from the 7th to 23rd February 2014. The Dominica team consisted of two athletes in one sport, cross-country skiing and was represented by a husband and wife team, Angelica and Gary di Silvestri who had visited Dominica about seven years ago and did philanthropic work. For their work, the Silvestris contend, they were given Dominican citizenship as a token of gratitude.

Brutal Press

But the American press was brutal in its reporting especially "Deadspin" a news blog. In an article entitled "Dominica's fake ski team scammed the Olympics and the press", the website stated that "Dominica is the sort of country that sells you "economic citizenship" on its website. Any married couple from anywhere can become Dominican by depositing $175,000 at the National Bank of Dominica."

But Wilson argues that Deadspin and its associates have spewed garbage about Dominica and its Winter Olympians.

"We should not be misled by crass journalism of the nature of Deadspin Funbag Video and Gossip as their website states to corrupt the minds and influence negative sentiments towards them and the Dominica Olympic Committee. Google its website to discover the number of law suits lost for defamation and deceit," Wilson said.

Deadspin maintains, however, that Angelica "didn't even show up for the 10K woman's classics claiming injury" and di Silverstri skied for only 100 meters before "claiming illness."

Wilson argued that the news organisations were rather unkind because the injury to Angelica was serious.

"On the morning of February 8, 2014 at about 8:30am, the president got a call from the Chef de Mission/Coach, John Downing saying that Gary was ill, weak with severe abdominal pain and in distress with an apparent stomach infection, later to be confirmed as acute gastroenteritis at the polyclinic and hospital.

"By about 12:00pm on the same day, February 8, 2014, Angelica while practicing at high speed crashed into a fence on a u-turn downhill corner of the "Red" course. Andres Gloorsen, Marcus Heliner, Sergey Ustiugov each collided at the same spot during the men's sprint final. The top of the fence where Angelica crashed face on at approximately 50mph or more had no padding as the metal fence was exposed.

"Diagnosis: Heavy craniofacial injury. Penetrated open crania-cerebral injury; local subarachnoid hemorrhage in the pole of the left frontal lobe; fractures of nasal bones and of the ethmoid bone structures and contused wound of soft tissues of the face plus added infections. Was that accident simply a broken nose?

"On the return of the president of the DOC to Dominica, I could not comprehend when after reading the "garbage" from Deadspin and associates one supposedly educated Dominica scoffed and laughed at Angelica's injury and compounded it by saying she was not fit. Horrific was the best way to describe that statement. A Russian Ski-Cross Racer, Maria Komissarova broke her spine (paralyzed) during practice run at the Extra-Park was treated in Munich after undergoing major surgery and was visited by President Putin.

"Angelica had five operations done from the first one lasting 7 hours on February 8, 2014 to the last least invasive one on February 25, 2014 two days after the end of the Games. Most of her time was in the Intensive Care Unit.

"Angelica did not start her race, after breaking her nose during training. Gary did not finish after starting his race because he was suffering from gastroenteritis", he said.

More Winter Games for Dominica

The DOC also argues that Dominica, despite being a tropical country, had every right to be at the Winter Games

"In other words, the IOC by its mandate of inclusion expects all members of the Olympic Movement, the NOCs to exercise their right to participate and in so doing benefit through participation in all Olympic activities. Winter Games are not for temperate countries and Summer Games exclusively for tropical ones," the DOC president said.

"Gary DiSilvestri and Angelica Morrone Di Silvestri were the Valentine couple featured on NBC, the sole TV sponsor and exclusive broadcaster of Olympic Games. The programme was shown on our local Cable Network MARPIN 2K4. The two skiers and president of the DOC travelled on passports numbered R0087816, R0091325 and R0087500. They were responsible for distributing a suitcase full of pamphlets, brochures, flyers, magazines, DVDs (featuring the Kalinago, scenic landscape and local artists ) from Discover Dominica Authority as well as national flags, and dive and whale watching promotional material from the Anchorage Hotel to attendees ( 88 countries) at the Winter Olympics. Dominica shared the stage with four other Caribbean countries including USVI, BVI, Jamaica and Cayman Islands and Bermuda. They can confirm that Dominica presence was extremely significant.

"If Gary and Angelica who belong to the Dominica Ski Association (DSA) affiliated to the International Ski Federation (FIS) had not qualified for the Olympic Games, Dominica would not have been there. The DSA's affiliation to the FIS meant that like all other affiliates of their International Federations, the DSA could compete in international events in route to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games.

"The same rules apply for say the Dominica Amateur Athletic Association which is usually our main passport to the Summer Olympic Games. Qualification to attend the Winter Games is more stringent for an Olympic ski event than many other sport events. Gary and Angelica had to compete in five qualifying races each. Perseverance, determination and sacrifice were their watch words and Dominica made it. DOC has not expended one cent on our two athletes and the Di Silvestris have not given any monies to the DOC neither has the DOC requested".

"The Di Silvestris taught all what courage, determination and sacrifice meant. Gary started his race still with intense abdominal pain, on February 14, 2014 at 2:49pm, the day after Angelica DNS, to show his love for his wife and his commitment to ensure Dominica's presence at the Games".

Wilson suggests that Dominica is ready to compete again at the next Winter Olympic Games.

"The way forward to the second Winter Olympic Games in South Korea involves the Dominica Diaspora in USA, Canada and Europe now has a chance to participate/compete and represent our nation in Winter Games," Wilson said. "In our five Summer Games thus far Dominica has been represented by its Diaspora one of whom has never been on Dominican soil for example Ericson Hurtault.

"Therefore, just as DOC has entered five successive Summer Games the same will be done at Winter Games. Dominicans inform your families and friends with Dominican linkage to join with the Dominica Ski Association affiliated to the Dominica Olympic Committee and FIS to get the country to Winter Olympics and International competitions.

"Dominica may not have snow on Morne Diablotin, however, it is the only country in all who participate in the Summer Games that does not have a synthetic track for its athletes who have been to five Olympics Games thus far. Our local Media and people should rally to assist the DOC to obtain that facility.

"Gary and Angelica, two benevolent Dominicans have intimated their willingness to sponsor through scholarship some of our young athletes to reach great heights in Olympic Games", the DOC president said.


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