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No Fear of the Underdog: Unexpected Winter Games Success Stories

These are the kingpins in their areas, and if you were a betting man or woman, you’d definitely put a few coins down in expectation that they’ll take home the gold. But what about the underdogs?

by Caitlin Hotchkiss Posted on 13 February 2014

From now until the last fireworks light up Sochi’s sky on February 23, G Adventures will offer up the best original and curated content from around the web. Want to follow along? We’ll share our take on Sochi 2014 through through the @gadventures handle, on Facebook—and right here on the Looptail. Check out all of our Winter Games–related articles here. This is your planet—see it at play.

The Winter Games are all about competition – various countries flexing their superpowers at “national” sports (hockey for Canada, speed-skating for the Netherlands, and so on). These are the kingpins in their areas, and if you were a betting man or woman, you’d definitely put a few coins down in expectation that they’ll take home the gold. But what about the underdogs – the lesser-known countries that don’t seem to be a natural fit for winter sports? Everybody loves an underdog story – they appeal to the perseverance and spirit of the human race, which is stuff we absolutely support here at G Adventures. With this in mind, let’s look at five of the underdogs we’re cheering for in Sochi:


Okay, we need to get this one out first: Mexico sent the oldest athlete of the games (55 years young), and he’s also a prince – Prince Hubertus zu Hohenlohe, to be exact. This is the sixth Games for this dapper gent, who was by far the most enthusiastic competitor during the opening ceremonies parade. He’s also known to compete in a uniform that mimics a mariachi costume, and his goal is to be the “best-dressed” at this Winter Games. Please just give His Majesty all the medals for awesomeness now.


Thanks to pop culture – and a little Disney movie back in the ‘90s – most people are aware of the Jamaican bobsled team. They’re an anomaly right off the bat in the fact that they’re from a warm tropical nation yet participate in a sport that, well, requires ice. But these four spirited Jamaicans continue to defy the odds, having participated in bobsledding at the Winter Games since 1988. This year, they qualified for Sochi yet didn’t have the funding to make the trip. Enter the Internet: the community of cryptocurrency Dogecoin raised part of the money needed, while crowdsourcing took care of the rest.


Specifically, the Japanese women’s ice hockey team has come out of nowhere to be a really engaging story. Nobody expected them to be very strong competitors – hockey isn’t exactly a popular sport in Japan – yet they took the Russian women’s team to the ropes a few days ago, forcing the home team to work for their 2-1 victory. They tied the score up late in the third period and celebrated with a group bow. Plus, they’re a speedy bunch, and goaltender Fujimoto Nana has a pretty decent save percentage. Japan has never placed higher than sixth in women’s hockey and they don’t really have much of a chance at medalling in Sochi, but they seem so goshdarn happy to be there that their cheerfulness is infectious.

INDIA (unofficially)

India in the Winter Games is already a strange prospect, given how warm most of the country is, but it’s even more of a struggle given that India has been suspended from the Games’ organizational committee due to irregularities in voting. As a result, India’s lone luger and its two alpine skiiers were forced to enter the 2014 Games as independent athletes, competing under the Olympic flag. And this is coming from one of the most populous countries on the planet.

ISRAEL (almost)

This one might be a tad premature, but it’s still a neat underdog-in-the-making story: Israel hopes to one day compete in curling at the Winter Games. So where do they look to recruit athletes? Canada, of course! The Israeli Curling Federation – yes, there is such a thing – has been searching the Great White North (where the sport is particularly popular) for athletes willing to take Israeli citizenship and then compete for the country. It’s a bit of a tricky prospect, and the ICF was already kicked out of the World Curling Federation once for not paying its dues, but they’re hoping to have a team together in time for the 2018 Winter Games. Good luck!

Getting There

G Adventures runs a number of departures encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.