As the first woman to represent Ecuador in the Winter Olympics, and the sole Ecuadorian to compete in Beijing, Sarah Escobar held the country’s flag in the opening ceremony.
“That Opening Ceremony as the flag bearer and being the first female open racer for Ecuador gave me such pride,” she said. “I had the honor of representing Sparta, N.J., and my parents as the only athlete for Ecuador and the first female racer in alpine. It was amazing.”
The 20-year-old Sparta High School graduate represented her family and their home country of Ecuador in the giant slalom on Feb. 7. She said it was something she wanted to do since she became serious about alpine skiing.
Escobar has dual citizenship in the United States and Ecuador. “When I learned that I may be able to compete in the Olympics, I wanted to honor my parents (Elena and Fabian Escobar) by competing for their home country,” she said. Escobar attends and skis for Saint Michael’s College in Vermont.
During the winter of 2018-19, Escobar joined the Federation of International Skiing (FIS). She retained her status as a NCAA Division One and Division Two athlete because she does not get paid to ski. “For kids with double nationalities, when you train with FIS and are a candidate for the Olympics, you get to choose who you want to represent,” she said.
Athletes were allowed to bring only a few people with them to the Olympic Village in Beijing. Escobar’s group included her father, who also serves as her tech (he makes sure everything is copacetic with her skis and equipment); the Chief of Mission (an official from Ecuador and Escobar’s doctor); and her coach from Saint Michael’s College, Nick Stagers.
“They were very, very strict with Covid for the safety of the athletes and coaches,” Escobar said. “Every single day, everyone had to get a PCR test before doing anything. I would at about 8 a.m.”
An Olympian birthday
As if competing in the Olympics and being a flag bearer wasn’t enough excitement for one week, Escobar also celebrated her 20th birthday in Beijing, on Feb. 1.
“I trained that day and got to go up to see the athletes’ lounge,” she said. “The day happened to coincide with the Chinese New Year, and I spoke with some of the Chinese volunteers and they made me a little cake.”
In the giant slalom, Escobar finished 60th in her first run, and did not complete her second run because of the quality of the slopes. She is proud of her performance, delivered under very challenging conditions.
“Eight-five races went and about half did not finish,” she said. “It was extremely icy and extremely steep. Everything in China was man-made, so all of us were struggling because it was so different than what we normally ski on.”
Escobar started skiing at Stowe, Vermont, when she was only three years old. She really came into her own while skiing at Mount Peter in Warwick, N.Y., when she was about 10. She skied for the New Jersey Ski Association and became one of the best racers in the state, winning many medals, and was a state champion for many years.
She skied for the New Jersey Racing Association before joining the Federation of International Skiing, through which she traveled the world. She currently trains in Vermont.
She thanks her coaches Tom Barbeau, Michael Savage, Nathaniel Juankis as well as her childhood coaches Phil Goodwin and Ted Paliwoda. She also thanks Schonne Malliet from Winter4Kids in Vernon, who let her train at their facility all during Covid. It was key for Escobar to continue to train, race, and maintain her points through the pandemic so that she could qualify for the Olympics.
She also thanks Melissa Fagersten who organized a huge, heartfelt welcome home to Sparta. Above all, she thanks her mom and dad for all of their travel to training and races, and their incredible, devoted support.
““That Opening Ceremony as the flag bearer and being the first female open racer for Ecuador gave me such pride. I had the honor of representing Sparta, N.J., and my parents as the only athlete for Ecuador and the first female racer in alpine. It was amazing.” Sarah Escobar