Olympic Solidarity helps athletes shine at Beijing 2022

There are 236 Olympic Solidarity scholarship-holders from 67 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) competing at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, and many of them have already achieved landmark results for their countries. Here, we look at some of the standout performances from scholarship- and grant-holders so far.

© Getty Images - Tess Coady, Jakara Anthony, Hanne Desmet, Kimberley Bos, Aruwin Salehhuddin and Donovan Carrillo Tess Coady, Jakara Anthony, Hanne Desmet, Kimberley Bos, Aruwin Salehhuddin and Donovan Carrillo / ©2022 Getty Images

Olympic scholarships contribute essential funding to cover an athlete’s training, travel and participation in qualification events, and are available to all NOCs, but in particular those with the greatest need.

Olympic Solidarity highlights at Beijing 2022:

  • USD 17.5 million invested in athletes’ preparation through the Olympic scholarships for athletes programme;
  • 429 athletes from 80 NOCs received scholarships to support their efforts to qualify for Beijing 2022;
  • 236 individual athlete scholarship-holders (139 men and 97 women) qualified for the Games, representing 67 NOCs, five continents and five winter sports;
  • At the halfway point of the Games, six medals won by scholarship-holders;
  • Scholarship-holder wins first-ever gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games for New Zealand;
  • Haiti’s first-ever Winter Olympian supported by an Olympic Solidarity scholarship.

Inspiring younger generations back home

One of the most remarkable results of the Games came on the second day of competition, in the women’s snowboard slopestyle event. Representing New Zealand, 20-year-old Zoi Sadowski-Synnott became the first athlete to win a gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games for her country in any sport. She then went on to win a silver medal in the snowboard big air competition.

"To win New Zealand's first Winter Olympic gold means so much to me, and I can't believe that I managed to do it,” she said afterwards. "I really hope that my performance here will inspire young kids back home to take up snowboarding."

Zoi Sadowski Synnott of Team New Zealand performs a trick during the Women's Snowboard Big Air Qualification on Day 10 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games © Getty Images - Zoi Sadowski-Synnott

Sadowski-Synnott is one of 429 athletes from 80 NOCs who were awarded Olympic Solidarity scholarships to support their efforts to qualify for Beijing 2022, and one of the 236 recipients who qualified to compete. The programme is aimed at promoting more diversity on the field of play and the podium, and supporting athletes who would otherwise not have access to funding mechanisms in winter sports.

The benefits of this approach were clear to see in the women’s snowboard slopestyle event, as taking the bronze medal was another scholarship-holder, Australia’s Tess Coady. This was the first time New Zealand and Australia had shared a podium in Olympic Winter Games history, and Coady was just the second woman from Australia to win an Olympic medal in snowboarding.

Olympic “firsts” for scholarship-holders in Beijing

These scholarships help NOCs without a strong tradition in a winter discipline to qualify for the Games and reach a position where they are able to compete for medals. Coady’s team-mate and fellow scholarship-holder Jakara Anthony provided another breakthrough result for Australia when becoming the country’s first female Olympic champion in the freestyle skiing moguls event.

On the ice, Hanne Desmet’s bronze in the women’s 1,000m was Belgium’s first Olympic medal in short track speed skating, as well as its first medal at Beijing 2022. Desmet became just the second Belgian woman to win an Olympic medal and the first since 1948, while it was only her country’s seventh medal in the history of the Olympic Winter Games.

Kimberley Bos achieved a similarly ground-breaking bronze medal in the women’s skeleton, when she became the first athlete representing the Netherlands to claim an Olympic medal in a sliding sport.

“It takes a lot because you have to convince everybody that what you do, you’re good at, what you do is hard, and there is a chance that you could get a medal. Nobody believes until you really do it,” she said afterwards.

“I hope that this will be a boost for the sport. I’m the only female at the moment [in the Netherlands], and we could use some new athletes.”

Flag bearer Richardson Viano of Team Haiti leads their team out during the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games © Getty Images - Flag bearer Richardson Viano of Team Haiti

The success of Olympic Solidarity is not measured just in medals, but rather in the number of athletes who qualify for and compete at the Games. Diplomas are also awarded for a top-eight finish, and have so far gone to athletes across a range of sports and NOCs, including Poland (snowboard and short track), Kazakhstan (short track), Turkey (short track), Ukraine (biathlon) and Georgia (figure skating).

Elsewhere, other athletes have made history simply by competing at Beijing 2022. Haiti’s first-ever Winter Olympian, Richardson Viano, was supported by an Olympic Solidarity scholarship, as was Aruwin Salehhuddin, who became the first Malaysian woman to compete at the Olympic Winter Games. Both athletes competed in Alpine skiing, and both were among the 65 flagbearers at the Opening Ceremony who benefited from a Beijing 2022 scholarship.

“With this help, I could achieve many things.”

Another flagbearer, Donovan Carrillo, became the first figure skater to compete for Mexico at the Olympic Winter Games in 30 years, and qualified for the men’s singles final after impressing with his short programme. Afterwards, he paid tribute to the support he has received from Olympic Solidarity.

“I got some help to be here from the Olympic Solidarity programme, since 2019,” he said. “Before then, it was really challenging. Because winter sports are not that common in my country, it was hard to find sponsorships. At the beginning of my career, I could only afford to go to one or two international competitions per year, because the expenses were so high.

“But with this help, I could achieve many things. From 2019, I started to compete more. I had the opportunity to go to summer camps to learn from the best coaches and choreographers in the figure skating world. And that also helped me to qualify and prepare for the Olympics.”

In addition to the individual scholarships, seven teams from six NOCs who have competed at Beijing 2022, in ice hockey and curling, have been supported on their journey to the Games by Olympic Solidarity’s Team Support Grant programme. Many coaches have been supported too, while the 13 largest winter delegations have also received funding assistance from Olympic Solidarity’s tailor-made programme, which offers flexible use of a fixed budget to support their athletes.

IOC distributed USD 5 billion during the past Olympiad for the development of sport

For Beijing, Olympic Solidarity has invested USD 17.5 million in athletes’ preparation through its Olympic scholarships for athletes programme. The subsidy programme in place to support NOCs to bring their athletes to the Games in the best possible way was also increased by USD 5 million, to cover additional COVID-19 countermeasures costs incurred by the NOCs.

The IOC distributes 90 per cent of all its revenues for the benefit of the athletes and the development of sport and Paralympic sport around the globe. With this solidarity funding model, the equivalent of USD 5 billion was distributed during the past Olympiad, or USD 3.4 million per day. This financial support benefits not just a few countries or a few sports. It benefits all the athletes from all 206 NOCs, the Refugee Olympic Team and all Olympic sports, whether popular or less popular, thereby ensuring true universality and diversity at the Olympic Games and within the Olympic community. The Olympic Solidarity programme is one of those through which the IOC’s revenue is distributed.

To learn more about Olympic Solidarity and the wide range of programmes available to NOCs, please click here.

Olympic Solidarity

Cycling Track at London 2012
Olympic Solidarity redistributes the share of the broadcast rights from the Olympic Games through programmes offered to all 206 National Olympic Committees. All Olympic Solidarity’s programmes are aimed at developing and promoting sport worldwide, and encouraging athletes’ participation in the Olympic Games.
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