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  • Learn & Share a Big Hit at YOG


    (ATR) Youth Olympic Games athletes flex different muscles and acquire valuable life skills in the Learn & Share program.

    Hakon's Hall features several activities for the young athletes to try out. (ATR)
    Hakon’s Hall, a hotbed of hockey during the 1994 Games, has been transformed into a combination activity park and life fair. After all, the goal of the 2016 Lillehammer YOG is to produce not just champions, but also responsible role models.

    “I think it’s really good that they’re teaching kids at a young age things that are really important later in life and throughout life,” Austin Kleba, a 16-year-old long track speed skater from the United States, told Around the Rings.

    The Learn & Share is a chance for athletes to put away their skis and skates, sleds and brooms, and yet still get a physical or mental workout.

    On any given day, you can see Japanese and Chinese athletes hanging on a rope climbing wall, Swiss playing foosball, Brazilians juggling balls made from plastic bags, Italians printing photos from Instagram, French swinging from ring to ring, Austrians wearing 3-D glasses on a Neurotracker and youngsters from various countries laughing in a foam pit or jumping on a trampoline.

    Because the YOG dining hall is next door, the Learn & Share is convenient as well as fun.

    Many life lessons are taught through games, with activities organized into five themes: Your Body & Mind, Your Stories, Your Actions, Your Career and Your Discovery.

    Prizes and Gifts

    Athletes are thrilled to get a woolly hat from anti-doping agency WADA, a “Play Fair” pin from the anti-betting folks or a big, red, fuzzy heart that says #iLoveYOG from the “Your Stories” section. They could also win a camera.
    And they still have competition. Quentin Fercoq, a 16-year-old short track speed skater from France, raced a friend across the rings.

    “I think it’s good because there are many activities and we can try everything,” he told ATR. “There is no limit for us. We can discover some sports, some new countries, new athletes.”

    They can even discover new dishes to cook as part of the Eat Smart Workshop, where athletes prepared nutritious food such as chicken parmesan with pasta.

    Olympic Values and Life Skills

    The Learn & Share program has always been part of the YOG, though under a different name.

    A soft landing (ATR)
    “I thought that Culture and Education was a little bit pompous,” Christophe Dubi, IOC executive director of the Olympic Games, told ATR, “so we said then, Learn & Share. Maybe we have an even better tagline in the future, but it’s always the same purpose, which is to bring to the athletes what is important in their career, as an athlete and as human beings.”

    In teaching the values of sport, the refrain has been “Get them while they’re young.”

    Craig Reedie, the WADA president and an IOC vice president, told ATR that the athletes he met at the WADA booth “were intrigued. (They said) what do I do?”

    They were asked to sign a pledge.

    “To learn at this age is important because if you’re going to have clean sport, you’d better get the youngsters coming in to understand rather to start with the kind of cynical older ones who know how to cheat,” Reedie said. “If this worked, happily forevermore we could go out of business.”

    But he admitted, “It’s a bit of a pipe dream.”

    Sports Science Kept Busy

    The Norwegian elite sports science program, Olympiatoppen, occupied a popular spot along the Your Body & Mind wall.

    Trying the Neurotracker (ATR)
    “There’s certainly some interesting things with some good information to check out -- for the athletes and coaches, said U.S. speed skating coach Eric Cepuran. “There’s always new stuff out there, so it’s cool to see.”

    He said he doesn’t have to tell his athletes to avail themselves of these opportunities.

    “They’re naturally pretty curious,” he said.  "Like any good athlete, they’re pretty well self-motivated.”

    Linn Engdahl Lysvik said the Neurotracker helps athletes cope with stress, while another attention tool, called mindfulness, helps them be more aware of thoughts and feelings.

    “They can take a step back, ‘Why am I thinking like this? Why I am feeling like this?” she said.

    On certain days, the Learn & Share has been open to the public in two-hour blocks.

    But it is mainly for the athletes to get away from the pressures of the field of play.

    “I hopefully learn the spirit of friendship,” said Edoardo Caputo, an 18-year-old pairs figure skater from Italy. “I think that in sport this is one of the most important things to share, to learn how to behave with your friends and your competitors.”

    “It’s a fun way to create this idea of union between people.”

    Written by Karen Rosen in Lillehammer.

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