(ATR) Olympic champions Angela Ruggiero and Kjetil Jansrud wish the Youth Olympic Games had been around when they were teenagers.
Olympic champions Kjetil Jansrud and Angela Ruggiero (ATR)
YOG participants are ages 15-18. Ruggiero, an IOC member and chair of the coordination commission for Lillehammer 2016, made her first ice hockey national team at 15. Jansrud, one of the athlete ambassadors, competed for the first time internationally at 14.
The first YOG was staged in 2010 in Singapore, although the first winter edition was not until 2012 in Innsbruck.
Ruggiero, 36, said that for YOG participants to learn the Olympic values at such a young age and “take them with them throughout their careers” will be “transformational.”
Ruggiero also was envious that YOG athletes are exposed to multiple sports and cultures and can spend time in an Olympic Village.
“It’s this exposure to other cultures that makes you think more broadly,” she said, “which I think was one of the amazing parts of being an Olympian -- and I would have liked to have that earlier.”
Ruggiero played in four Olympic Games for Team USA (Getty)
Ruggiero, who competed in four Olympic Games for the USA and won a gold medal at age 18, plus two silvers and a bronze, called the Learn and Share program “one of the key differentiators between the Olympics and the Youth Olympics.”
She said athletes can learn how to take control of what goes through their bodies at the WADA booth, or talk about career options after they retire from their sports – though for these youngsters, that could be far in the future.
“A lot of the athletes that will compete here hopefully will go on in PyeongChang as Olympians themselves,” Ruggiero said.
Jansrud last week won the downhill test event in PyeongChang (Getty)
Jansrud, 30, grew up about an hour north of Lillehammer and attended the 1994 Games as a child. A three-time Olympian, he won the gold medal in the Super-G in Sochi and the bronze in the downhill. Jansrud recently won the downhill World Cup test event in PyeongChang.
He said he agreed to become a YOG ambassador to help bring the values of sport to the younger generation, as well as education about anti-doping and other issues that affect them.
“I think it’s good to have the Olympics grab ahold of the younger athletes early,” he said, so they can learn these values at a tender age.
“I find that it’s not that young athletes need the Olympic motivation at the age of 15 to aim for the ‘grownup’ Olympics,” Jansrud said, “but I think it has as much to do about educating human beings as educating athletes.”
He said that throughout his career in alpine skiing, “you see unfortunately 95 percent of the people in skiing do not make it all the way to the top. But every single one of those 95 percent that I have met on my way have turned into really good people.”
And Jansrud said they have sports to thank.
Written by Karen Rosen in Lillehammer
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