Before our team started its trip to Innsbruck, we had a meeting where we got to know each other a bit and received our uniforms from our NOC. It was exciting to meet «my» team and all the many new people I would enjoy overwhelming experiences with. When we finally arrived in Innsbruck, it got even harder to realise what was happening around me. Everything felt huge; so many people of different nationalities, different cultures; so many venues, competitions and dreams.
The Opening Ceremony is still very clear in my mind. It was absolutely overwhelming and very moving. My race day is very clear as well. It was such a great day, perfect weather. I really enjoyed my runs. And I can also remember the atmosphere at the track and the support of my parents. It was such a moving day! It is really hard to select favourite memories. There are so many more of making friends, cheering at the venues and experiencing as much as I possibly could.
In the years since Innsbruck, I have realised that it was a big step in Olympic history, not just for me. But at the time, when every single minute was so new and exciting, I didn’t recognise that at all. When I had the chance to experience the YOG again at Lillehammer 2016 – from a completely different viewpoint – I started assessing things differently. Time had passed so quickly; I was absorbing many, many experiences after weeks and months. But when I was thinking back in 2016, I realised that I understood – without really thinking about it – why this huge event is so important for younger athletes and helping them understand what the Olympic values are all about. I guess this is the most important thing that I have taken with me.
I passed my high school exams in 2014, and afterwards I spent one year with the army to continue my sporting career. But in March 2015 – at the end of my last year as a junior – I decided to finish competing. There were many reasons behind my decision. One very important one was that unfortunately it was not possible for me to find a balance between sport and university, with my studies in psychology starting in October 2015.
A former team-mate sent me the advertisement for the ambassador position. It was not long after finishing my career, so I just tried my luck. My goal was to share some of my little experience with younger athletes and also to find a smooth end for my own career. The opportunity to speak and learn about the Olympic values was
I was responsible for the Learn & Share Programme, so my most important role was to motivate the athletes to participate in some of the activities. I wanted to ensure that they made the most of their experience in Lillehammer and balanced their free time with their sporting events.
It was important for me to tell them that there will always be ups and downs, and that we can always learn from our mistakes and failures. And also that, while they do a lot to enjoy their success in sports, there are many other important things in life, and that finding balance is important in order to keep their energy and motivation up for a longer period of time. As I mentioned before, I hope I was also able to share some key points of the Olympic values with them.
I tried to tell them that they should always keep their eyes and hearts open for what is coming next, for every chance they get.
In my opinion, the fact that I was a former YOG athlete was a great ice-breaker, and it really helped to connect more quickly with them.
I think the Learn & Share Programme had really evolved, and had become even more useful for athletes to learn about their personal and private life and career. For example, there were some workshops about how to do mental training or how to «eat smart». It also seemed to me that Lillehammer 2016 was a bit bigger and a bit more serious. Maybe it was just because of the different viewpoint I had, but I think it should be emphasised that this is just a small step for these young athletes on their long way to the top. It is a great opportunity and motivation, but the athletes should also keep their perspective.
This is an incomparable opportunity for younger athletes to feel energised and motivated on their long way to the top – maybe even on their way to the «main» Olympic Games. It is really important to give them a goal and help them to build their own dreams. Besides their competition achievements, they learn so much more about fairness, respect and dignity in sports and in life. And hopefully they will have learned and experienced that sports have the power to overcome borders of all kinds.