Friends Forever at the YOG

As the world marks the International Day of Friendship on 30 July, we hear from former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) athletes about how they forged lasting friendships with competitors from all over the world during their time at the YOG.

Picture by Olympic Information Services OIS. This image is offered for editorial use only by the IOC. Commercial use is prohibited.

The Youth Olympic Games are not just about sport – they are also about bringing young athletes from all over the world together, and enabling them to create friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.

“It’s got a little bit more emotions than the senior Olympic Games,” explains Tara Geraghty-Moats, an American ski jumper and Nordic combined athlete who attended the Winter YOG Lausanne 2020 as an Athlete Role Model. “These are not quite fully-fledged professionals yet. It’s a different vibe, it’s a bit less formal in some ways. This is the magic behind the YOG – the emphasis on friendship and connection. And these are friendships that will serve these athletes their whole lives.”

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Picture by IOC/OIS

Here, some of those athletes reflect on their experiences of forging new friendships at the YOG…

Nicola Philippaerts

Belgium, equestrian, Singapore 2010

“Going to the Youth Olympic Games was an unbelievable experience. Martin Fuchs [of Switzerland] and I were on the same team with Team Europe, and again we’re on the same show jumping team now with the London Knights [in the Global Champions League]. We’re very close friends. I believe the friendships that you forge at the Youth Olympic Games are friendships that last throughout your careers.”

Camille Prigent

France, canoe-kayak, Nanjing 2014

“It was really an awesome time. I met so many young athletes of my age in different disciplines and from all over the world. I made many friends, it was so cool. The medal was one of my first really good results, so I think I will always remember it. And the time on the podium also with my friend Amy Hilgertova; it was really nice to share it with her.”

Keely Small

Australia, athletics, Buenos Aires 2018

“It was an amazing opportunity. It was also just meeting new people. All the different people. I'm still friends with the girl that I raced against in my 800 metres, which has been really good because it's nice when you go and you travel because you make those connections with people. It's just nice to be friends with them. You're competitive, but it's really nice to also be friends with them as well.”

Magnus Kim

Republic of Korea, cross-country skiing, Lillehammer 2016

“I made some great memories, had some great experiences, and got a taste of what it feels like to participate in the 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.”

Pandelela Rinong

Malaysia, diving, Singapore 2010

“In the Youth Olympic Games, it's not just about winning, it's also about friendship. I actually made a lot of friends at the Youth Olympic Games, and I also made new friends with all the divers, because they are more fun at the Youth Olympic Games. It’s not so serious.”

Thomas Bussard

Switzerland, ski mountaineering, Lausanne 2020

"We have memories we will never forget – winning medals, meeting new friends, meeting athletes from other sports.”

Emma McKeon

Australia, swimming, Singapore 2010

“Singapore 2010 was my first international event, so it was great to be part of that team and bond with other athletes from Australia and all over the world. It was nice to be able to make friends from a young age. We still all follow each other a fair bit through social media, and some of the guys who were on that team with me are still swimming now with the senior team. It's nice to be able to reflect on those times when you see them at different meets around the world, and that makes it a bit more fun; being able to see everyone and race against them now we’re all older.”

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Picture by Getty Images

Alex Hall

USA, freestyle skiing, Lillehammer 2016

“The main thing I took away was how cool an experience it was to go to an Olympic event and be part of such a large-scale event as opposed to just a freestyle skiing event. Just for the experience of going, meeting so many new people and seeing other events. It was really fun near the end of the Games – we were swapping our gear with athletes from other countries, so that was a cool way to meet. I traded beanies with a curler from New Zealand. I still wear the beanie almost every day. I get some funny reactions wearing it. It was also pretty cool to share the podium with friends – the gold medallist was from Norway [Birk Ruud] and the bronze medallist was from New Zealand [Finn Bilous]. Both guys I know really well.”

Christian Mahon

Australia, biathlon, Lausanne 2020

“The Youth Olympic Games give us a unique opportunity to have friendships from the other side of the world. Our friendships will last beyond the Youth Olympic Games, maybe into adulthood, maybe forever.”