ROSA KHUTOR, Russia: Lebanon’s Jackie Chamoun insisted her mind was solely on skiing Friday as she competed in the Olympic slalom, just over a week after footage of a topless photo shoot caused uproar at home. The 22-year-old finished in 47th place from the 60 participants and said she had received plenty of support from people in Sochi and in her home country.
Last week, video footage emerged online of a 3-year-old photo shoot that showed the skier posing topless in ski boots and skis in Faraya.
The images sparked a flap in Lebanon, including a ministerial demand for an investigation.
But Chamoun said the scandal back in Lebanon was of no importance as she took part in her second Winter Olympics.
“Seriously, I didn’t think about that at all today. I was here, happy to do the race and I was focused,” the skier said.
“I mean, it happened, but I put this to the side for the moment and I just focused on my race. I’m happy to be here, I cannot think about something else right now. [The race] is the best thing you can think about, you just have to focus.
“Small things are not going to disturb me even if it was a big story in my country. I just continue, it’s not a big obstacle.”
The photographer behind the risqué shoot, Hubertus von Hohenlohe – who will compete in the men’s slalom Saturday – had defended the pictures Thursday.
“I don’t think the photos are offensive. It’s a shame because I believe we did nothing wrong,” he told AFP.
Despite the initial outcry, Chamoun said plenty of people had expressed their support for her.
“I got a lot of messages from Lebanese people on Facebook, on social media, just telling me: ‘We don’t need your medal, we don’t need you to win, we’re just glad that you represent the country and you do it very well,’” she said.
“So a lot of them are proud of me and are happy to see me here.”
Members of Lebanon’s Olympic committee and ski federation, as well as friends, also came to see her race, “so it’s nice to see Lebanese supporters in the crowd.”
Chamoun, wearing a white catsuit with pink webbing, a light blue helmet and fluorescent yellow goggles, raced in 87th place and was the last one down the Rosa Khutor course.
But she punched the air on arrival and beamed at the crowd as if her time of 2 minute 9 seconds – a full 43 seconds behind leader Mikaela Shiffrin – was enough for gold.
“I always do [that] when I finish a run at world championships or Olympics,” she said.
“It’s a great feeling just to be able to participate in these events so crossing the finish line is even better and I like to show my due to everyone.”
With 25 racers failing to make it down the course, Chamoun finished third from last, ahead of South Korean Kang Young-Seo and Iran’s Forough Abbasi.
“But I did my best, at least I finished the run. It’s just the best feeling to cross the finish line, I’m glad and I hope to do better in the second run.”
On her left wrist she wore two colorful bands, proclaiming “Live love Beirut” and “Live love Lebanon.”
“I’m just wearing them to show everyone that I’m proud to be Lebanese,” the skier said.