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Husband, wife to ski for Dominica as nation's first winter Olympians

By Mike Singer | CBSSports.com

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The di Silvestris are the first husband-wife combo to compete in the same Olympic event. (Photo via Gary di Silvestri)

Call them the odd couple. They probably don't care.

Gary di Silvestri, 46 and originally from Staten Island, and his Italian wife Angelica Morrone de Silvestri, 48, are each Sochi-bound, representing the first husband-wife tandem to compete in the same Olympic event; cross-country skiing.

Gary, who met qualifying standards last month in Montana, will compete in the men's 15-kilometer classical race while Angelica, who qualified last weekend in Maine, will take part in the women's 10-kilometer classical.

The couple won't, however, be representing the United States, despite Gary's country of origin. The 15-year cross-country veterans will represent the small, Caribbean Island of Dominica, which sits about halfway between Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

Just how, then, did the couple wind up cross-country skiing for a Caribbean nation?

The de Silvestris visited Dominica on vacation about six or seven years ago, in the same area where the couple had done significant philanthropic work, including supporting various children's hospitals in poorer countries.

“They call [Dominica] the nature island, half tropical rain forest, half Caribbean beach,” di Silvestri told NBC. “The sand is black, not white. They have 1400m high peaks. It has everything. It has mountains. It has caves. It has hiking, beaches, beautiful crystal clear water, snorkeling, the whole bit. It's untouched by tourism, relatively speaking.”

Dominica, as a thank you for all the money and effort the couple had invested, offered them citizenship. The nation, for perspective, has about 70,000 citizens and has never sent anyone to the winter Olympics.

When the IOC contacted Dominica, asking if it had any possible participants, known as avid cross-country skiers, the couple's names came up.

“They contacted us in November, and we've basically had two months to do what people do in two years,” di Silvestri told The Staten Island Advance. “It's been a full-time job and we've been traveling to every venue possible to enter events where we could meet qualifying times in order to be in the Olympics.”

Making their story even more improbable, Gary, a two-time state wrestling champion, nearly had his athletic career derailed when he was in high school. A drunk driver collided with his father's car as they were driving home from a meet, sending Gary, who wasn't wearing a seatbelt, through the windshield.

He spent two weeks in the hospital and, incredibly, survived without permanent damage.

Later, at Georgetown, he won a national championship on the rowing team.

Thanks to their ages and their unique path to Sochi, it's fair to assume that the spotlight on Team Dominica will be disproportionate to the nation's population.

 
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