WHISTLER, Feb 17: Dachhiri Sherpa has run ultra-marathons in the Himalayas and climbed Mount Everest but he was quite content to set himself a relatively small mountain to scale at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Dachhiri, a rarity as a Nepali cross-country skier, will compete in the men´s 15km freestyle at Whistler Olympic Park on Monday when he hopes simply to cross the finish line.
"I just want to participate and do my best, but I do not have any objective in mind other than that," the 40-year-old former construction worker told Reuters.
Dachhiri has already reached rarefied heights by qualifying to line up in an event with the world´s best racers.
Despite being born in the shadow of Mount Everest amid snow-capped mountain peaks in Solukhumbu, he was never likely to stumble across cross-country skiing.
The sport does not have a single venue in Nepal, where he grew up as the son of yak and cow farmers and studied at a Buddhist monastery.
"Many people who don´t know Nepal think it is a high country with big mountains and lots of places for skiing," Dachhiri said with a smile. "But people who really do know Nepal know there are no skiing facilities there at all."
He was first introduced to cross country skiing in 2002 after gaining a formidable reputation as a mountain runner who competed regularly in the Himal race, an ultra-marathon that links Annapurna Base Camp to Everest Base Camp.
"I win this race and after that the Nepal Olympic committee called me to their office and asked me to start practicing the cross-country skiing," he said. "I had never been on skis before and it took me some time to learn.
"I can ski now but not very well because everything is very difficult to do in Nepal. Also being on my own makes it very, very difficult."
Asked what had been his biggest obstacle in cross-country skiing, Dachhiri replied: "The technique.
"Also to get to know how to prepare the skis, and how to get good skis. But my running has helped a lot. Because I used to run long distance, 15 km is very, very quick for me. The longest distance I have run is 166 km non-stop."
Dachhiri has previously competed at top level in cross-country skiing, placing 94th in the 15 km classic at the 2006 Turin Winter Games and 76th in the 30km pursuit at last
year´s world championships.
For the future, though, he has one clear goal in mind.
"One day, I want to make a small track in Nepal for cross-country skiing. That will make me very happy."