Seattle's Own Persevering Olympian Finds 'Life-Changing' Welcome In Peru

Mar 14, 2014

A Peruvian-American Olympic cross-country skier is looking forward to a big welcome when he returns home to Seattle this weekend.

Seattle Olympian Roberto Carcelen finished dead last in his race at the Winter Olympics, but what happened to him afterward could illustrate the Gospel phrase that says "the last shall be first."

When he stepped up to the starting line in Sochi, Carcelen was already in pain. He was still nursing a fractured rib and a pulled muscle from a training accident.

The Microsoft consultant gritted his teeth and skied to a last-place finish in the 15-kilometer event on Valentine's Day. He then flew to his native Peru where he says he has received a hero's welcome.

The 43-year-old describes his reception as "overwhelming and life-changing." 

"I understood there is a message that must be delivered all over the place," particularly to residents of the poorer sections, he said. 

Carcelen says people identify with his story of perseverance to a degree he never imagined.

"When I decided to compete, I wanted to create a really a good message of basically finishing whatever you have started, regardless of the adversity,” Carcelen said.

He says he has been giving motivational speeches, pep talks and interviews pretty much non-stop around Peru for the past three weeks.

Carcelen says he looks forward to returning to his regular job in e-commerce consulting next week, but plans to continuing giving inspirational talks for Northwest audiences, too.

Carcelen met his future wife online and moved to Seattle to marry her in 2003. Kate introduced him to skiing, which is not a popular sport in Peru even though the Andean country has tall mountains. 

The skier has the distinction of being the first athlete to compete for Peru at the Winter Olympics. That happened in 2010 at the Vancouver Games. In Sochi, he carried the Peruvian flag for the second time at the opening and closing ceremonies.