MARK Rajack and Nicholas Lau are flying the TT flag around the world, but not in a sport that you would first think about when you think of a TT athlete. Rajack and Lau, now both in their late thirties, are hoping that the groundwork laid by them will open the door for younger local athletes to venture into skiing.
Lau and Rajack are both from TT, but left this country when they were young. Rajack, now 37, was born in San Fernando and migrated to Canada at age six.
Lau, 39, left TT at two and lived in the USA (Boston and Texas), before moving to Switzerland in 2007. Lau, who is in his second season representing TT, said his family used to live in Port of Spain and San Fernando.
Both Rajack and Lau have fond memories of TT.
Rajack, who visited Trinidad last Christmas, cherishes the time he spent in Trinidad before migrating. “Mayaro was a big part of it. Going to the beach house all of the time when all the family came together (was special). Honestly, it is just the emotional and social wealth that so many people in Trinidad take for granted and you don’t realise how great it is until you lose it. You come to a different country where you spend a lot more time in isolation.”
Lau said going to the beach when he visited TT as a child was memorable, along with eating the wide variety of local cuisine. Rajack and Lau have only been competing on the international circuit in recent years, saying their job is to put TT on the skiing map and hopefully encourage others to take up the sport.
Rajack said, “Right now, my role at this age having only skied for six years, and the same thing for Nick, we are not going to be podium contenders. We are professional in what we do and we are good sporting ambassadors and we are laying the framework to nurture and promote the best of TT and the athletic talent within it when it arrives.”
Lau knows there are people with TT roots who live in cold climates throughout the world and thinks an increase in TT competitors is possible.
“Yeah absolutely (we are hoping to pave the way). We have quite a large and a growing diaspora all around the world. We have got Trinis in the states, in Canada and in the UK (United Kingdom) of course and other parts of the world, so there are definitely people out there,” Lau said.
Lau said although TT does not have snow, people living in TT can be introduced to the sport. “I think the first step is about communication and getting the word out there. We can explore ways to develop the sport in TT itself, but that is tricky because there is no snow.”
Lau said there is a version of skiing that can be done without snow.
“There is a warm weather discipline of the sport called roller skiing. There is a form of skiing, which is similar to roller blades, which you call roller skiing which can be done in warm weather and Trinidad has actually not a bad terrain for it with the rolling hills. That could be a gateway where talented individuals could be first spotted there or developed there and then hopefully be given opportunities to train on the snow or somewhere else.”
Rajack, who represented TT at the 2019 World Ski Championships, said the world is changing which has seen more countries competing at global events. “You will find that our Trini diaspora is just spread all through this world and it is not uncommon that you are going to find people from all types of exotic countries in the north skiing. I just think it is a matter of time, a matter of just a couple years before we get some representative talent of what TT expects on the snow.”
Lau said he receives mixed reactions from his competitors when he tells them he is representing a Caribbean island, but they are supportive.
“It is positive, (but) they are surprised. It is definitely not something they are expecting, but they are positive to see the sport grow and expand beyond the typical countries.”
Rajack and Lau are hoping to compete at the Alpine 2021 World Ski Championships.