"What I learnt at the YOG"

As the international day of education is marked around the world on 24 January, we hear what athletes have learnt from their experiences at previous editions of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG).

Jessica Fox (AUS, canoe-kayak)

Gold medalist at the YOG Singapore 2010

“Going to the Youth Olympic Games is such a valuable experience – having the chance to perform on that world stage, to be a part of a team, to be immersed in the Olympic vibe and also to learn about all the Olympic values. There are a lot of things you can learn that, I think, are really important as a young athlete. It’s not just about the sport and winning medals; it’s also about sportsmanship and learning about gender equality and issues like doping and match fixing. Competing is obviously a big part of it, but it’s about learning along the way, gaining a lot from the experience, from sharing, from being a part of a team and for being with other athletes from other sports and other cultures.”

Noah Lyles (USA, athletics)

Gold medalist at the YOG Nanjing 2014

“When I went to the Youth Olympic Games, I learnt that everyone is pretty much the same no matter where they come from. When you go onto the global stage, you can be scared of all the people you’re competing against because they’re different and you don’t know anything about them. You have these images of people and you think that everybody's different and they have a different mind-set. But everybody trains the same, everybody wakes up the same, everybody goes to sleep the same. So there's no reason to be scared or frightened because of somebody you don't know from all the way across the world.”

Shoma Uno (JPN, figure skating)

Gold and silver medalist at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012

“Going to the Youth Olympic Games was not so much about the result, but I learnt a lot because the training environment changed totally from what I was used to. I was usually training for many hours, but at that kind of competition you can't get as much practice time in as you would like, and I had to adjust to it. So the experience is benefiting me to this day as I have learned that you don't have to over-train to achieve success. I don't need to practice five or six times a day. That is the one thing I remember most. It was a good experience and I think in the future that experience will continue to benefit me.”

Magnus Kim (KOR, cross-country skiing)

Winner of two gold medals and one silver at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016

“For me, the YOG built confidence and I started realising that I could become a really good athlete. It gave me trust and belief [in myself]. I will carry that throughout my career, and it will help me whenever I’m having tough times. I made some great memories, had some great experiences, and got a taste of what it feels like to participate in an Olympic Winter Games. There were so many opportunities for making new friends from all over the world. I’m sure it will help me in the future, when I need to work with people from other countries.”

Sydney Siame (ZAM, athletics)

Gold medalist at the YOG Nanjing 2014

“Being at the Youth Olympic Games motivated me a lot and I learnt so many things, like how to handle the pressure at that level. It was a very tough competition, but I managed it. It motivated me and now I’m looking forward to the future and the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Duda (BRA, beach volleyball)

Gold medalist at the YOG Nanjing 2014

“The Youth Olympic Games have helped a lot, most of all to get used to the atmosphere of big events like the World Championships. You get afraid, shocked a little bit at how much is going on, and the Youth Olympic Games helped me to grow up to this new world of senior sport. It was an important experience and it was great to play there. Not only from the sport aspect – because the level of play was incredible – but also being with other athletes and learning about other cultures. It prepared me for bigger tournaments.”

Renato Paratore (ITA, golf)

Gold and bronze medalist at the YOG Nanjing 2014

“I learnt a lot from the atmosphere at the YOG because the Olympic atmosphere is unlike anything else. You have to be there to know what it is really like. From this aspect, I think I grew a lot. It is part of my career that I will never forget. To be there with such a big group of very talented athletes from many other sports was very nice.”

Hailey Langland (USA, snowboard)

Competed at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016

“If there's anything that I've learnt from Lillehammer, it's definitely not to stress out as much as I did when I was there. I was super insecure and in my own head about my riding and it ended up getting me eighth place, so it definitely showed how I wasn't confident in myself. But Lillehammer was also like a precursor for what I experienced at PyeongChang 2018 and it helped that there were a lot of similarities between the Youth Olympic Games and the Winter Games. I was already used to things like the security and the living situation in the Village, so it was pretty nice to have had that little early start and learn about those things.”

Yuliya Levchenko (UKR, athletics)

Gold medalist at the YOG Nanjing 2014

“During the Youth Olympic Games, I realised that sport unites the world. There were educational programmes where we could get acquainted with cultures from other countries. For the first time, I saw such a variety of sports and people from different nations in one place. It was all about making new friends and expanding your horizons. I understood how much friendship and team spirit can motivate you, and it doesn’t matter if you are on the field of play or cheering from the stands. I was enlightened by the humanity of the Olympic values and how they can help you in everyday life. I realised that sport is much more than just training and competitions.”

An article to read on Olympic.org

Photo: ©Getty Images