Three Olympians plus three very different approaches to success equals one very entertaining Meet the Role Models session.
Offering a unique opportunity for the athletes to ask those burning questions, the evening saw Swiss figure skating legend Stéphane Lambiel, Korean ice dancing queen Yuna Kim and Russian powerhouse swimmer Alexander Popov share personal memories and expert advice with plenty of laughs along the way.
Revealing that special moment in his illustrious career, Alexander, a four-time gold medallist recalled: “I was privileged to meet Mark Spitz (nine times US Olympic champion) on my birthday in 1991. He said, if you want to be an Olympic Champion be an Olympic Champion at 20 not 24. If you have a chance, have an opportunity, take it. Don’t wait four years.” ” Alexander was 20 when he won two gold medals at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games.
Not unsurprisingly, Stéphane looked to the Torino 2006 Olympic Games for his stand out memory, explaining how he “cried and cried” after his routine, so upset was he with what he thought was a “disappointing” performance. “It was only when they put the silver medal around my neck that I realised what I had achieved and I cried and cried again.”
Here in Innsbruck in their capacities as Athlete Role Models, the trio spoke about their experiences of the first Winter Youth Olympic Games so far. Yuna, record-breaking Olympic champion in Vancouver, said: “I’ve watched the boys, sorry men figure skaters, they were so cute. I felt so old.”
“What I really feel, especially at the Opening Ceremony, is team spirit,” Stéphane added. “There is this mixture of cultures and disciplines coming together and that is magical.”
And what about handling nerves? Asked one young athlete. Yawning was Alexander’s unique approach; “trying to focus on the performance, not the competition,” said Yuna but it was Stéphane who stole the show with his top tip - singing! And with that the figure dancer burst into a rendition of Backstreet Boys! Watch out Justin Bieber. There is a new kid on the block!