Patrick Chan: “The YOG are a wonderful opportunity for young athletes”
Olympic gold and silver medallist Patrick Chan speaks to olympic.org about being an Athlete Role Model (ARM) at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Lausanne 2020 and why he wishes he’d had the chance to compete in the YOG as a young athlete.
Having won gold and silver medals at the Olympic Winter Games, as well as three world titles, Patrick Chan is one of the most successful figure skaters of all time. Now retired, the 28-year-old Canadian is looking forward to sharing his experiences with the next generation as an ARM at the Winter YOG Lausanne 2020.
How excited are you about being an ARM at Lausanne 2020?
“I’m really excited. I honestly don’t know what to expect, because I’ve only really known the Olympic experience from an athlete’s perspective, so it will be really interesting to be on the other side and acting as a mentor. I was in the same position as these athletes before, so I know what it’s like and I know how helpful it can be to have people in the background supporting you.”
Why did you want to become an ARM?
“Since I retired in 2018, I've had my own kind of challenges, and I would say I'm a very different person now than I was right after my career ended. So I can't wait to share my perspective with these athletes because it’s really helped me move on. Sometimes you can see things a bit more clearly when you’ve taken a few steps back, and I definitely view my career in a different way now. Hopefully these athletes won’t be dealing with problems like that, but I hope to be able to help them in some way. I’ve been through all the highs and lows of life as an athlete, so I can remind them that it’s all about pursuing their goals.”
How much did you know about the YOG before becoming an ARM?
“I obviously never got the chance to experience the YOG myself but, from what I’ve heard and seen, I just feel that it’s a wonderful opportunity and I wish that I’d had the chance to compete in something like this when I was a junior athlete. I think it would’ve really helped my development as an athlete, both mentally and physically. It’s a wonderful experience to get these kids exposed to being a responsible athlete and sportsmanship, as well as meeting new people, having an open mind and rising to the occasion. It can be really refreshing for them to see that they’re part of a bigger world, with many other athletes from different countries and from different sports.”
What do you think of the concept of having ARMs available to offer advice to the young athletes?
“It’s a great opportunity for them to ask us all about our experiences and see that we’re human, just like them. But it’s not just a one-way road; I think it’s great that we, as retired athletes, also get a chance to be involved in their development. So while this is very much a new role for me, I'm going into it with an open mind and I hope to learn just as much from them as they hopefully will from me. Obviously they may never feel like they need to ask for our help or advice, but sometimes it can be comforting to know that someone is there on their side, who has experienced the same things and who has been in the same shoes that they’re in.”
Did you have a role model when you were a young athlete?
“I was very lucky as an athlete to have grown up with a very tight-knit group of Canadian Olympians during my era of skating. We very much arrived as kind of a group and, even though we're individual competitors, we very much came in as a team. I'm still very close to some of those athletes. So I'd say for sure my fellow competitors were big influences on me, but one of my main role models when I was growing up was Kurt Browning. Men's figure skating in Canada has a very rich history, and I very much looked up to Olympians and world champions like Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko.”
What advice would you give to the young athletes ahead of the YOG?
“The main thing is to enjoy it; really soak it in like a sponge and don't be scared to have fun. You need to have your plan, but you can allow yourself to have time to explore and have conversations. One of the best things about my career is the friends I've made at every Olympics, so be sure to make some really good lasting friendships because you may see them down the road. So have fun and follow your plan of attack, but also just take it all in because it only comes once in a lifetime.”
And what is your message to those young athletes who are looking forward to meeting you in Lausanne and hearing your advice?
“I would love to meet everyone and encourage all of them to ask any questions they have. That's what I'm there for, and I have all the time in the world to chat, so please, please don't be shy and just come up to me and talk.”