Interview with Didier Cuche
Four times World Cup champion in the downhill event, Didier Cuche is considered one of the greatest skiers in history. He won 21 World Cup races and climbed 67 times on a podium. He is a four-time World Championship medallist and has won no fewer than five times one of the most legendary races on the circuit, the “Streif” in Kitzbühel, Austria. He has agreed to answer our questions and tell us about the opportunity of the Youth Olympic Games for the youth.
Today he talks about the opportunity of the Youth Olympic Games for the next generation of Swiss champions!
What were the biggest challenges you have faced in your career? Would you say that young athletes face the same challenges today?
For me, the biggest challenge was my progression from year to year as a young athlete. From regional championships to being a member of the national team, all of the levels that separate them. This long journey requires young athletes to be extremely tough and have a strong motivation, overcoming obstacles such as injuries which slow down progression - and were numerous in my case!
Throughout this journey, I would say that the age group 16-20 years old is the most sensitive: this is where the young athletes most frequently stop, having often been slowed down by the increasing pressure and demands placed upon them.
Today, I think these challenges are the same, but they are even more intense: the general level of competition increases, and with it, the costs. Not only the cost of living, but also the cost of more sophisticated equipment. Whilst this is much better for the quality of Swiss sport, it also makes practice even more difficult for youngsters. When I was still competing, a year of training would cost about 20,000 CHF. Today we are closer to 30 – 35,000 CHF.
How do you think the Youth Olympic Games in Switzerland in 2020 could best benefit the next generation of winter sports in our country? What objectives should the Games aim to achieve, and what role can Swiss Olympic and the National Federations play in this equation?
The Winter Youth Olympic Games are still young: the Games in Lausanne in 2020 will be only the third in history. But I notice that they are becoming more and more important in the sports system. They are excellent in the sense that they add a step in a long-term vision for the development of the next generation of athletes. They are becoming more important in the sports calendar and the federations understand that they represent an exceptional experience for young athletes. They are definitely a catalyst for the quality of our next generation of athletes.
Just as the Junior World Championships accelerate the growth of the youngsters, the Youth Olympic Games allow a faster understanding of what the elite level is. And they are useful for everyone: National Federations, Swiss Olympic and young athletes. For National Federations and Swiss Olympic, the Youth Olympic Games represent an additional tool to prepare the future members of the national Olympic team. For the young athletes, it is also an opportunity to learn what the Games are, not only in terms of the competition level but also in terms of the broader aspects that make this event totally unique. It is a tremendous opportunity for them to be able to experience this.
With regards the development of sport in the French-speaking Switzerland, what opportunities do the Youth Olympic Games bring with them?
The Youth Olympic Games should benefit the development of sport, no matter where they will take place. National Federations should always find ways to make their talents benefit from the Games. For instance, some of the infrastructures will be updated. Automatically, money will also be invested to prepare our young athletes to be successful: the Games - whatever they are - and the medals won there, are a showcase for an Olympic Committee and a Federation. This is an excellent opportunity to boost our national training, and if the French-speaking Switzerland can benefit even more, it is good.
If Games like this were to send only one message to the youth of our country, which one should it be?
I would say that these Games must enable our youth to become aware of the importance of Olympism in the history of sport. A young person today does not have that knowledge. Even I only fully realised the impact of the Olympic Games having directly participated as an athlete.
If the Youth Olympic Games can raise this awareness early on, it's great. The Olympic spirit and the positive values it carries is a great asset in the development of a young person, whether a competitor or a spectator. If Lausanne 2020 is able to convey such messages, then it will be a real success.