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Persevering Olympian Finds 'Life Changing' Welcome In Peru

Despite finishing dead last in his race in Sochi, a Peruvian-American Olympic cross country skier is looking forward to a big welcome when he returns home to Seattle this weekend.

When Seattleite Roberto Carcelen stepped to the starting line in Sochi, he was already in pain. He was still nursing a fractured rib and 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.

From Russia, Carcelen 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.

Speaking from Lima, 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."

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.

Carcelen has the distinction of being the first athlete to compete for Peru at the Winter Olympics -- in 2010 at the Vancouver Games. In Sochi, he carried the Peruvian flag for the second time at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.