Sabrina Wanjiku Simader, Africa’s “snow leopard”, has been designated UN Environment’s first Mountain Hero. The 19-year-old athlete is also set to become the first Kenyan alpine skier to compete in the Olympic Games when she takes to the slopes in Pyeongchang, South Korea next week.
“UN Environment is delighted to announce the appointment of the Kenyan skier Sabrina Wanjiku Simader as the UN’s first Mountain Hero,” said UN Environment’s Executive Director Erik Solheim. “Sabrina’s voice will be important to help draw attention to emerging environmental issues in mountain regions such as climate change, waste, and loss of biodiversity.”
Simader was born in Kenya but grew up in Austria and was trained by her stepfather, who owned a ski lift and would take her out on the slopes. She loves skiing and spending time in the mountains. She also has a passion for species such as the iconic snow leopard, as her racing suit clearly demonstrates.
“Our mountains are changing due to climate change, which is causing glaciers to retreat and threatening biodiversity, including species like the iconic snow leopard. I wanted to become more engaged to protect these fragile and vulnerable regions,” says Simader. “I train in Schladming in Austria, a region that has already witnessed the impacts of climate change, including the shifting of the ski season, which impacts winter tourism.”
Simader will be also lending her support to the United Nations Wild for Life campaign, which aims to end the illegal wildlife trade. Her kindred species: the snow leopard.
She is excited to take on her new role with the United Nations just as the 2018 Winter Olympic Games kick off in Pyeongchang. She will compete in her first event on 12 February.
“It has always been my dream to participate in the Winter Olympics and represent not only Kenya but – alongside other athletes, like those from Nigeria – our beautiful African continent,” Simader says. “I hope I can lead by example and inspire other young Africans to also follow their dreams.”
Learn more about Africa’s mountains with UN Environment’s Africa Mountains Atlas.