PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Wy’East Mountain Academy has been helping high school students navigate how to become a pro in sports that don’t have a clear cut path. Take, for example, freeskiing and snowboarding.
Rayan Hmidi, a 16-year-old at the academy, has dreams of not just going pro, but helping pull his father’s country into the international community.
“I’ll say the name Tunisia, I’ll be like, ‘I’m from Tunisia,’ and people are like, ‘where’s that?'” said Hmidi.
A small country in northern Africa of just over 11 million people, Tunisia has never had a winter olympian. Hmidi hopes to change that.
“It would mean a lot, not only the fact that I could ski in the Olympics, but just to represent a third-world country like that would just be so huge,” said Hmidi. “I mean, you see this every year, these new countries are starting to develop and get more involved in these activities and I think it’s so big for a country like this.”
In his father’s home country, Hmidi has fallen in love with the small town where his dad was raised—Solymahn.
“It’s this little village where there’s a bunch of kids who are always playing in the street. The parents are working really hard either in making their kids food or they’re working in the farms,” said Hmidi. “You can just see it’s such a different culture and I just think it’s really cool.”
Hmidi began skiing at a young age in upstate New York. In eighth grade, he knew if he wanted to chase his Olympic dreams, his path would have to look a little different.
“I went back to normal public school and it was just super difficult to pursue what I really wanted to pursue and maintain my schoolwork,” said Hmidi. “So the year after that, I tried to go to a boarding school and then it just kind of went from there.”
Now, in addition to school and skiing, Hmidi is navigating the new terrain of convincing a nation to let him be their first.
“I don’t know very much about it, I’m still very new with the whole process, but I’m trying to pretty much document everything that I’ve done and gather as much information as possible and then hopefully give it to them where they’ll think I’m a worthy competitor,” said Hmidi. “And then hopefully they can support me competing in the Olympics.”