'Ask me anything' – luge legend Huefner’s simple message to Youth Olympians
Having won a medal of each colour across three of the four Olympic Winter Games in which she competed, Germany’s eight-time luge world champion Tatjana Huefner knows what it takes to succeed at sport’s highest level, and will be delighted to share her knowledge with the young athletes at Lausanne 2020.
Tatjana Huefner wants to make one thing very clear: she is open to answering any questions athletes at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games might throw at her.
The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games luge champion serves as an Athlete Role Model in Lausanne in January and is looking forward to the opportunity to share some of the lessons she learned over a long and distinguished career.
“Every athlete is an individual,” says Huefner. “The questions they could have will also be very individual, and will be very different. I want to let them know that they can ask me anything and I’ll try to answer every question.”
Lausanne 2020 will be the first time Huefner has officially acted as a role model and she is looking forward to what she describes as a “very special” opportunity and a chance to give something back to the sport she loves.
Huefner says she learned many things during her career, in which as well topping the Olympic podium in 2010, she won eight world championship titles, a silver medal at the Sochi 2014 Games, bronze at Torino 2006, and multiple other world and European medals, before retiring at the end of the 2018/19 season.
Her successes were the product of years of hard work and refining her technique, and calling on that experience, Huefner offered a glimpse of the type of insight she will be passing on to the Youth Olympians in Lausanne.
“In luge there are two situations possible,” she explains. “In one situation you could have a bad run and that’s why you have a bad result. You can say to the athlete that it’s a process they can learn from, and not every competition is like the others.
“The second situation is when you have a good run and the time wasn’t good. I found that much harder because you can do nothing about it. I’ve had many situations in my sport where I didn’t compete very well, and I think you can learn much more from these for your next steps.
“This is something young athletes must realise – that bad competition isn’t bad at all.”
The lesson could apply to any sport, and Huefner says she would share it with any athlete she meets in Lausanne who is worried about their performance.
The other area where the German wants to help young athletes is handling media pressure. For many, the Winter Youth Olympic Games will be the first time they face the challenge of passing through a mixed zone after competition.
Huefner says it is important to practise being interviewed, to know what to say and when – especially when there is more pressure to perform and competition has not gone so well.
She reveals that her role model when she was younger was the great Italian luger, Armin Zoeggeler. While the six-time Olympic medallist did help Huefner to improve on the track and drive her sled faster, his life lessons were equally important.
“I learned from him also how to treat people outside the sport and how to give something back. That’s very important to know for the young athletes,” says Huefner.
“It’s helpful when you work hard – you can get a lot out of work,” she says, adding that this mantra is now useful in her post-retirement career in the German army.
Now, Huefner wants to teach the next generation about more than luge alone, and recommends a focus on detail for life both during and after a sporting career.
The 36-year-old consistently asks herself what she can do better and how she might improve – whatever the context – and sharing such lessons is key to why she was very happy to become an Athlete Role Model.
“Sport is much more than medals. This is what I want them to know,” she says.
By Olympic Information Service