06 Dec 2017
They produced some unforgettable achievements at the Olympic Games, and their sporting legend lives on. What has become of them? The Olympic Channel is giving you the chance to find out through its new “Legends Live On” series, in which these fantastic champions tell their stories.
The “Legends Live On” series was launched worldwide on the Olympic Channel on 1 December. But at the same time, Rome hosted the premiere in the presence of Italy’s seven-time Olympic cross-country skiing medallist and IOC honorary member, Manuela Di Centa. The programme was shown at the headquarters of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), in front of an audience composed of journalists, dignitaries, sports personalities and the entourage of the great champion from Paluzza (Friuli-Venezia-Giulia).
Manuela Di Centa, Olympic achievements on the roof of the worldManuela Di Centa, already on skis as a very small child, took part in five editions of the Olympic Winter Games, from Sarajevo in 1984 to Nagano in 1998. And it was in 1994, in the Birkebeineren stadium in Lillehammer, that she produced her greatest performances, medalling in all the women’s cross country skiing events with two golds (15 and 30km), silver in the 5km and 15km pursuit, and bronze in the 4x5km relay. She recalls that, when she arrived in Norway, she simply said to herself: “I feel great, so let’s try to do something good!”
After being elected as an IOC member, she had at Turin in 2006 the immense pleasure of presenting the 50km gold medal to her younger brother, Giorgio Di Centa. A moment when emotion spoke louder than words! In 2003, Manuela celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first successful climb of Mount Everest by becoming the first Italian woman to stand on the roof of the world. And in 2006, she was elected to parliament, where she worked to create sports programmes for Italian schools.
“I firmly believe that everyone should follow their heart and their own path, and that drawing on your internal strength can help you achieve success”, she says. “As a role model, especially for young women in today’s society, it is crucial that I help them follow their passions so that they can achieve their personal goals. I hope that sharing my story will help inspire others around me to continue pursuing their dreams.”
Transforming the experience of success into positive actionYou will learn about 15 great champions, from winter and summer sports, from the distant or recent past and today, talking about their experience in this not-to-be-missed series. Starting with the story of one of the greatest sprinters of all time, four-time Olympic champion Michael Johnson, who is today applying the same energy he devoted to his running career to his “Michael Johnson Performance” foundation, which uses the best equipment to help young people from all backgrounds develop their sporting potential and achieve their dreams.
There is also Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, who delighted his compatriots by tearing up the pool in Sydney in 2000, and who is today taking a message of hope to isolated settlements. For her part, Brazilian beach volleyball player Jackie Silva, an Olympic champion in 1996 with Sandra Pires, devotes considerable effort to helping young people in difficulty in her country to sort out their lives through sport. German figure skating legend Katarina Witt, who astonished the world by winning two gold medals (1984 and 1988), has long made use of her fame to help others.
Lastly, snowboard superstar Shaun White, who has two halfpipe titles (2006 and 2010) and is hoping to qualify for PyeongChang 2018 and wipe out memories of his disappointment in Sochi, where he placed fourth, has another exciting life, as a talented guitarist, but also in the world of fashion.
All these champions have managed to transform their dreams into success, and their success into positive action. As Manuela Di Centa puts it, “I gained so much as an athlete; I worked very hard and learned a lot through sport. For me, it was a duty to give something back with all the experience I had acquired. I believe that an Olympic champion has great responsibilities. The best way to show this, especially to young people, is not through teaching but by setting an example by telling them about our lives.”