Adrián Ruiz: paddling towards his dream of well-being and a healthy environment

In 2018, Adrián Ruiz de Magdalena won a contest at his university in Spain to become a Young Change Maker for the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This opportunity was one step in his journey to becoming an IOC Young Leader and influencing the lives of young people in his community through his passion for canoeing and kayaking.

Project: Paddle for your dreams

Please tell us about your background. 

I am a physiotherapy student with a degree in sports science and a master’s degree in education. I am also a wild water canoeing coach and I work as a sports administrator. Becoming an IOC Young Leader has given me the opportunity to reach more people in my community through canoeing, the sport that has been my passion since I was 13 years old.

What has sport given you?

Sport has shaped me into the person I am today. When I started canoeing, I was not aware of the limitless power it could bring to my life. Now, as a sports professional, I have a greater understanding of how sport can be a tool to improve people’s lives. I feel very thankful for the opportunities I have had through sport, and I want to give back to my community so that others can also benefit from it.

Describe your IOC Young Leaders project.

My project, Palea por tus sueños (“Paddle for your dreams”), was designed to educate people, no matter their age, about the benefits of practising sport in nature and on the water, specifically canoeing. I live in a small town in the south-east of Spain called Calasparra, in the Murcia region. Young people in this area often do not have many options or the motivation to be active. My perception is that many young people engage in drinking alcohol or smoking and I wanted to offer them an alternative lifestyle. I saw canoeing as a way which will not only bring about health benefits, but also allow people to spend time in nature and explore the amazing natural places in our region.

Through canoeing, people start to value and respect the environment, which hopefully translates into wanting to take better care of it.
I started my project in my hometown, but we intend to expand it to the regional and then national levels.   

Project: Paddle for your dreams Adrián Ruiz de Magdalena

How has your project impacted your community?

The main objective of my project was to introduce canoeing to as many people as I could. With greater exposure and access to the sport, the aim was to get more people joining the local club and practising canoeing on a regular basis. Through this we also hope to support the regional canoeing federation by creating future canoeing champions and ambassadors.

Despite the difficult situation due to the pandemic in 2020, the project has been successful. We were able to reach more than 250 people through canoeing by the end of September 2020. More than 40 kids joined the local club the same year, which represents an increase of 250 per cent in terms of memberships compared to the previous year.

What are you most proud of regarding your project?

I am happy to have been able to combine the international experience and community I gained from the IOC Young Leaders programme with the local impact we achieved with and for the youth participants. Our project participants are now pursuing canoeing and leading healthier lives, aligned with the Olympic values. 

Project: Paddle for your dreams Adrián Ruiz de Magdalena

What does being part of the IOC Young Leaders Programme mean to you?

The IOC Young Leaders programme has given me the tools, the inspiration and the motivation I needed to be able to give my best self to my project. Sometimes you just cannot see a way out of a tunnel, but if you have the right people around you, encouraging you to move in the right direction, ultimately something you considered as a huge problem can become just a simple task.

Please provide some advice to the next generation of problem solvers.

I would advise people to look for support from their colleagues and their community. Find a community where you can be inspired by others and in which you can share resources, ideas and opportunities. And do not put too much pressure on yourself. Leverage the power of sport to continue to solve problems and make the world a better place.

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