KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — As he prepared to become Venezuela's first Alpine skier at an Olympics, Antonio Jose Pardo Andretta had plenty on his mind about the unrest back home.
Hundreds of students in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas have spent the past week alternating between peaceful daytime protests and nighttime battles with police.
After falling near the start of the Sochi Games giant slalom on Wednesday, Pardo said he found out a day earlier that his 15-year-old daughter had attended a street rally.
"I was not very happy, because I was here. I was worried," Pardo told The Associated Press. "But there's nothing I can do."
He said that he has been following the news in Venezuela, and it weighs on him.
"There's nothing I can do except for being here and trying to make happiness and hope for the people there," Pardo said.
The White House expressed concern about the violence in Venezuela, with spokesman Jay Carney saying the use of security forces and armed gangs by the government to disrupt peaceful protests was alarming. The unrest has been fueled by rampant crime, high inflation and shortages of basic goods.
Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez re-emerged Tuesday from days of hiding and addressed thousands of supporters before turning himself in to police.
There have been Venezuelan athletes at past Winter Olympics, but Pardo is the first to enter an Alpine skiing event.
His unprecedented run down the hill did not last very long. Coming around an early gate as the 109th and last starter in the giant slalom, he lost his balance and his right ski popped off, and then so did his left ski. He landed face-first in the snow and slammed his right pole three times.
"If I did my best performance, I wouldn't (have) won, anyway. So I feel happy. ... Sports is like this," said the 43-year-old Pardo, who splits time between being a stockbroker in Venezuela and a banker in Switzerland.
"This is something I always wanted to do," Pardo said. "It was always in my mind that I wanted to make the Olympics. I didn't want to arrive to 60, 70 years old and say to myself, 'I could have been in the Olympics and I never tried.'"
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