How were you chosen to represent the USA as a Young Ambassador in Lillehammer?
“I was working for the US Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) as an athletics manager, when the United States Olympic Committee sent out an invitation to all of the country’s governing bodies for applicants. The selection process was really intense – I had to run a Facebook page pretending I was in Lillehammer with the team and I had to give a demonstration of how to cook a typical Norwegian meal – and I was lucky enough to get the role.”
Tell us about your experience at the 2016 Winter YOG.
“Above all, it was a huge amount of fun. No one day was ever the same and I met some incredible people. My principal role was to help the athletes get involved with the many ‘Learn & Share’ activities in Lillehammer and they really embraced everything which was on offer. It was so satisfying to see each athlete make the most of the whole YOG experience and not just narrowly focus on their own events.”
What was your personal highlight from Lillehammer?
“It had to be watching two of our young athletes – Jake Pates and Chloe Kim – winning two gold medals apiece in the boys’ and girls’ halfpipe and slopestyle events. They were special moments for Jake and Chloe and their success also meant so much for the whole team.”
How did you become involved in the YCM+ Programme?
“For my YCM+ initiative I teamed up with ‘Hope Sports’ a US-based non-profit organisation. It was founded in 2015 and every year we bring together a group of athletes and travel to Mexico to build new homes in the community for underprivileged families. Our first visit was in June two years ago when we went to Tijuana with 20 American freestyle skiers and snowboarders. We were back in 2016 with the help of a YCM+ grant of 5,000 Swiss francs from the IOC. This year, we took a smaller group of winter sport athletes, but joined up with some football players and the gymnast Shawn Johnson, who won a gold medal at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008.”
What was it that attracted you to this particular project?
“It has always been a passion of mine to help athletes give back, gain new perspective and find a new purpose outside of competition, which I believe is exactly what ‘Hope Sports’ achieves. It is about driving home the importance of leading a purpose-driven life rather than one defined only by your latest results. The YOG spirit of learning and sharing is always alive and well on our trips and it has been a joy to watch the athletes teach each other and learn from each other.
How did Panasonic’s support of the YCM+ Programme enhance your project?
“We were given a Panasonic camera to take with us to Mexico, which meant we were able to document the trip. We didn’t have a professional videographer in the group, so the camera enabled us to point and go and capture some great footage. We subsequently posted some of the footage on social media, which helps to spread the Hope Sports message, and we were also able to show our generous sponsors how their money was being spent.”
What does the future hold for Hope Sports?
“I have already started planning next year’s trip and I am looking for new athletes to take part and keep things fresh. I hope I will be able to persuade some of the American medallists from the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 to get involved with the project.”
What are your plans for next year?
“I’m going to PyeongChang as part of the USSA’s family and friends programme. The programme is designed to give as much practical support to all our competitors by ensuring they do not have to worry about the people who travel to support them in the Republic of Korea. That way they can focus on their performance. The YOG in Lillehammer was the greatest experience of my life and I am so excited to have the opportunity to reconnect with the Olympic family next year.”