Olympics / Skiing / Winter Olympics / Winter Sports

Remembering Isaac Menyoli's run at Salt Lake 2002 to raise AIDS awareness

Buea is a city in the Fako Division of Cameroon. It is the hometown of Isaac Menyoli, a Cameroonian architect and skier who competed at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City (although some sources say he was born in Tiko, which is 16km away). By competing, he became the first Cameroonian representative at the Winter Olympic Games.

He competed in two events: the men’s classical 10 km race in cross-country skiing, where he finished 80th and last, and the 1.5 km sprint, where he finished 67th out of 71. But he wasn’t in it for personal fame or medals—he wanted to raise awareness of AIDS in his hometown:

The desire to do something seized Menyoli in 2000, when he traveled back to Cameroon from Wisconsin, where he has been studying architecture and working since 1994. Some aid workers had gone into Cameroon to teach sex education and AIDS prevention. But most locals wouldn’t listen to the foreigners. Many said that HIV was a lie or a conspiracy. Yet some of Menyoli’s friends had died and “I suspect AIDS was the case,” he says. “But people said, ‘No, it was witchcraft or voodoo.'”

[…] When Menyoli asked himself what would happen if he became an Olympian, he knew the answer. “I’m such an amateur skier,” he says. “It’s tough.” But the sport isn’t really the point. Menyoli’s Olympic-sized ambition is. “I want to ski for a reason,” he says. “I want to tell people that they really have to watch out, that AIDS is serious.” He’ll deserve a medal if he gets that message across.

via TIME

Menyoli is still an architect and according to his LinkedIn profile, he’s still president of M&E Architects+Engineers based in Milwaukee, where he studied and currently lives.

Leave a Reply