11 young Mongolian skiers have returned to train in the Vallée de Joux

The idea to enable the best cross-country skiers from Mongolia to take part in the 2020 Youth Olympics was the brainchild of Pascal Gertsch, a medical practitioner, who is also a huge fan of cross-country skiing, and the country of Mongolia. The dream started to become reality in 2017 thanks to the support of Vallée de Joux residents. Following on from last year’s visit, 11 young skiers are coming to the Vallée de Joux for a two-week training camp from the 12th to the 29th of January.  

Aiming to qualify for the 2020 Youth Olympics

Pascal Gertsch, 72, has just come back from his 5th visit to Mongolia, in the last year. This particular visit was to take part in nordic skiing competitions that took place in Teshig, in the north of Mongolia, not far from the Russian border, and 700km from the capital Ulaan Baatar. These competitions were held in honour of the 2020 Youth Olympics. Two young Swiss skiers from the Vallée de Joux region and one young French skier, also took part. They did themselves proud, winning their events.

The project has seen the construction of a Nordic ski centre in Bat Olziit, and the opportunity for Gansum Mungun Ulzii, a Mongolian doctor, to come to work for a year within the sport’s medicine section of the CHUV in Lausanne. Pascal Gertsch explains that, “up until 1980, there was a lot skiing in Mongolia, but gradually it died out”. The Mongolian International Skiing Federation (FIS) is now determined to bring back cross-country skiing to their country. To realise this ambition, they have focussed on the development of young athletes. Pascal Gertsch came up with the idea of organising training camps for them in Europe, initially thinking of Sweden. But the imminent arrival of the Youth Olympics in Switzerland presented the opportunity for the contingent to come to the Vallée du Joux, to prepare for the games.  “The young Mongolians need to experience how we train here and compete against other athletes in order to be ready for the Games.” An initial training camp was organised in Mongolia last autumn in which 37 athletes took part. Each of them undertook a tough selection process testing endurance, resistance, strength, agility, speed and technique. Only the very best, who were eligible for the Games, were then shortlisted to come to the Vallée du Joux. The final team selection for Lausanne 2020 is still to come.

A 15-day human adventure, from the 12th to 29th of January 2019

For the second year in a row, a delegation made up of a trainer, a translator and 11 young athletes aged between 15 and 17, are leaving their villages to come for two weeks to train at the Vallée de Joux ski facilities. An objective of this second visit is also for the young Mongolians to make contact with local residents of their age and to improve their level of English, even if the priority remains their training sessions.

The participants will stay at the Vallee de Joux Sports Centre, and be accompanied by Pascal Gertsch as well as their translator Nassa. For 6 of them it will be a second visit to the region having already come in 2018. “The basis of the Olympic spirit is about the sharing of knowledge and about different people getting to know each other”, emphasises Dominique Rochat, the coordinator for the Lausanne 2020 events that will take place in the region, “the human adventure goes way beyond sport and provides the perfect link to the Olympic ideals. I am immensely proud of the generosity and open-mindedness that has been shown by the Vallée de Joux residents, which has been vital to making this project a success.”

Discover Dr. Gertsch's interview

Picture: ©Keystone/Valentin Flauraud