Mialitiana Clerc: Madagascar's female skier on Beijing 2022

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Mialitiana Clerc in action in BeijingMialitiana Clerc started skiing when she was three years old

Despite not coming close to the medal positions at the 2022 Winter Olympics, for Africa's sole female representative just being in Beijing was an achievement in itself.

Twenty-year-old skier Mialitiana Clerc represented Madagascar at the Games, finishing 41st in the giant slalom and 43rd in the slalom.

"I should be proud. They are good places for me, because I am coming back from injury so I didn't have a lot of time to train and do some races and to get ready for the Olympics," Clerc told BBC Sport Africa.

In January last year, Clerc almost quit her sport after suffering a broken tibia and fibula in competition which kept her sidelined for the majority of 2021.

She only returned to competitive action two months before the Olympics.

"I didn't know if I really wanted to continue alpine skiing," she said.

"But I really wanted to go to the Olympics and race again. I was like 'Come on Mia, you can do it - just think about it every day and you'll be there', and here I am."

The Malagasy athlete was among six Africans from five countries representing the continent in Beijing, and this was her second appearance at the Games.

The sub-tropical island of Madagascar, where rugby is the national sport, is not known for winter sports but Clerc is the first woman and second athlete to feature for the country at the Winter Olympics.

"I was born in Madagascar and was adopted when I was one by a French couple, so I live in France," she said.

"I started skiing when I was three years old because my dad wanted to teach me how to ski, and I started competition when I was eight."

Embracing Malagasy roots

Mialitiana Clerc carries Madagascar's flagClerc carried Madagascar's flag at the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games

Her affair with the sport was not love at first sight, as Clerc initially found the cold unbearable, but as she got the hang of it the slopes soon became a welcome sight.

While she competed as a youth in the colours of her adopted nation France, switching allegiance to her birth country was an easy choice.

"I was supposed to go with the French federation but five years ago I wanted to represent Madagascar," she said.

"My dad asked me 'If you have a choice to represent Madagascar, do you take it?'. He told me if I take this decision I can go to the Olympics as well, and I said yes."

It was a decision which saw her make history for the island nation. In 2018, aged 16, she became the youngest flag bearer for Madagascar at an Olympics Games.

"Four years ago it wasn't important to me. I didn't know a lot of things about my country," she said.

"But now I can feel that it is really important to me. I really want to represent Madagascar because [the people there] are living (through) some bad situations because of the weather.

"I want the Malagasy people to support me, to discover what alpine skiing is, to discover my story and to discover that I want to fight for them in Olympic races."

Becoming a professional skier, however, came with sacrifices as Clerc had to scale back on her love for playing the piano and violin so she could focus on the sport.

She hopes that one day the pay off will be achieving her ultimate dream, which is becoming the first Malagasy woman to make a World Cup podium, as well as be a role model for others across the continent.

"I want to inspire a lot of Africans; I want to inspire all black women as well," she said.

"I want them to follow their dreams and if they have any chance to do sport or something, they take it and enjoy it."

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