Sarah Meier, an athlete role model promoting the YOG in Lausanne
Sarah Meier had a long career in figure skating, firstly as a competitor, especially at the Olympic Games, then as a professional in galas all over the world. Today she is a journalist and, in her position as an athlete role model, is an untiring advocate promoting the YOG Lausanne 2020 in the Zurich region, her region, as she explains here.
Tell us a bit about your Olympic career.
I took part in four Olympic competitions. The first was the 1999 Winter European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in Poprad-Tatry in Slovakia. I won the silver medal. That was really a great feeling for me, as I was just 14. It was something I had dreamt about for a long time. To be with Team Switzerland was very special, because in figure skating you’re not part of a big team, just two or three people and your coach. Getting to know all the other athletes, eating together, it was fantastic. And taking part, performing too: I was really nervous…
The second time was the Games in Salt Lake City in 2002; and the third was at the Games in Turin in 2006. In Turin, I knew I had the chance to win an Olympic diploma, not necessarily a medal. I skated well. That was my best performance at the Games, finishing in the top 10. I was very nervous again, but it was a superb experience. Lastly in Vancouver. I was ill before I was due to skate, and ended up in the Olympic Village hospital. It wasn’t great, but I told myself: “I’m still going to skate because it’s the Games, and only once every four years.” So I tried, but I was a bit weak, and you could see that in my programmes.
What do you remember from that experience?
When I think back, I had some amazing experiences taking part in the Games, being there with the Swiss team. And the opening and closing ceremonies were great memories, too! The Games are something you have to have experienced. There’s something very special about them; it’s hard to explain. You never experience anything like that at other events. The world championships are your own sport. It’s great and emotional, but everything is even bigger at the Games. The emotion is even stronger, and I’ll never forget that!
What have you done since the end of your sports career?
I stopped competing in 2011 and turned professional. And I did lots of galas all over the world. During that time, I tried to find something else to do, and in 2013 I started working with an internship as a journalist. Then I did two years of studies while continuing with the galas. It was a bit difficult. I gradually did less training and fewer galas, and I focused more on my work. Since 2015, I’ve been working full time for the “Schweizer Illustrierte” magazine, and I do some coaching for a synchronised skating team in Zürich, plus sometimes for the Swiss national team and regional managers.
What advice would you give a young athlete taking part in the 2020 YOG?
Make the most of it! Obviously, the competition is the most important thing for everyone. But if you have interactions with the other athletes, if you take part in the opening ceremony, that is just as important, and it can have a positive influence on you. Take advantage of everything that is special and different from the European and world championships.
Do you think it is important to pass the message on?
I hope that the young athletes will be able to make the most of it! When I was young, it was important for me to have other athletes to tell me about their experience, and to find out that there were other athletes who’d followed a similar path. But ultimately, of course, each athlete has to do it on their own. You can support them, but when they are competing, they have to manage by themselves. I just hope that, thanks to my role, I can help some of them.
If you had to promote your sport, what would you say?
Figure skating is my favourite sport. Because it has everything. The athletic aspect with the jumps, the music, the artistic expression. I thought it was really cool as there are a thousand different things to do when you’re training, and you never get bored. I love the music and the costumes, so today I enjoy being a spectator. And the sport is constantly progressing, with women today doing quads (quadruple jumps). That’s amazing. I still follow the competitions by watching videos on the internet. I’m astonished to see what the skaters today can do.
Where would you rank the YOG among the big sports events?
I think that the YOG are a very important event. The Lausanne 2020 Games will be free for spectators, which is great for young people: perhaps they’ll be motivated or inspired to try a particular sport afterwards. Perhaps also for young athletes who are experiencing self-doubt or other problems, the YOG will give them the chance to see other events: skiing, ski mountaineering, skating, ice hockey, etc. Whatever you do, don’t miss it!