Since Illinois-born internet entrepreneur Paul Bragiel dropped everything to chase a childhood dream earlier this year, his uncharted path has taken him across the world, from the arctics to the tropics, in what he hopes will eventually lead him to represent Colombia in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, as the nation’s first cross-country ski competitor.
When the year started, i/o Ventures managing director Bragiel, 36, had never been on a pair of skis, hadn’t done any organized sports since high school, and was packing a few extra pounds around the waist. Fast-forward to today, following countless hours skiing across glaciers in Europe and New Zealand, careful research, and a surprisingly smooth process to obtain Colombian citizenship, and Bragiel feels optimistic about his chances at arriving at the Olympic Games this winter.
Bragiel, after researching Olympic requirements, decided to enter as a cross-country ski competitor by process of elimination to maximize his chances of qualification. “Once I was set on going for it, I started to do my research. Cross-country skiing and the Winter Olympics were chosen by a process of elimination. I hadn’t ever been on skis until late March!”
He chose to represent Colombia after he petitioned a number of tropical countries and the north Andean country showed the greatest interest in his pursuit. Enticed by his entrepreneurial business expertise and his gusto, and with help from Innpulsa, a national government entrepreneur and technology initiative, as well as an official decree by President Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia officially granted Bragiel citizenship in August.
“In the end I was able to get citizenship, from my first conversation to passport in hand, in about four and a half months. Pretty amazing speed for a government if you ask me,” said Bragiel. ” The hard part was the paperwork. In the end to do it in an expedited manner they needed to grant me citizenship by a presidential decree!”
Since then Bragiel has gone on to create the first Colombian cross-country ski team and hopes to represent the Latin American country this upcoming winter in Russia.
“What really gets me emotional is that they truly believe in me and my dream. They welcomed me into their Colombian family and are even willing to let me represent them internationally as a fellow compatriot,” said Bragiel. “Overall a crazy ride and something I will always remember fondly.”
- I/O Ventures VC Paul Bragiel Goes On Hiatus To Train For The Winter Olympics (Tech Crunch)
- Hacking the Olympics (Hacker News)