Helping out the German team of 83 athletes last week was fencing Olympic gold medallist Britta Heidemann who joined the pre-Nanjing gathering to give her advice and some words of motivation. The young athletes were also presented with their national team kit that they will wear proudly during Nanjing 2014 and which created a lot of excitement and generated a few #yogselfies!
Here is what Britta had to say:
Tell us what you are doing with the athletes at the Nanjing 2014 kick-off event!
I will be team delegate for the fencers in Nanjing 2014. At the kick-off event, we took a lot of pictures for the German Olympic Sport Federation. After a while, we decided to take a picture of our own - just for fun.
How is the feeling among the athletes?
I always enjoy being among other athletes; we all have a lot in common. Feels like family. Except that the athletes of the Youth Olympics are younger than those who join the Olympics.
What is the most common thing in their kit bag?
I didn’t see anyone without a smartphone!
What are your best words of advice to them?
Be disciplined, work hard, but at the same time enjoy your sports and take reasonable decisions. Sometimes, a day of rest brings more success than two straight days’ training.
If I was someone watching the Youth Olympic Games and wondering how can I get there, what would you say?
The first step to get into high-performance sport for you is to decide if you are motivated to put in a lot of effort or not. If so, you need to know that - as in any other field of life – there will always be smaller or bigger setbacks in your career. But if you make it through those, you will be rewarded. Again, I think that you would have to enjoy the way to the top as much as the success itself.
How did you get into your sport of fencing?
I started out with swimming and track and field. At the age of 13 I started doing modern pentathlon, and fencing is one of the five sports. I loved it from the beginning, as in the combat sport fencing you fight psychologically, not only physically. Your stamina won´t decide on victory or defeat; it’s your mental skills. It’s a fascinating sport.
What do you eat before competition?
For breakfast I usually have a bread roll with cheese; the day before the competition I normally have pasta.
What is the highlight of your career?
Winning the Olympic gold medal in Beijing 2008, not only because of the success but also because I have a special connection with China. I went to middle school in Beijing for a couple of months at the age of 15 and afterwards studied Chinese studies at university. It was a dream come true when I won the gold medal and could answer all the interview questions in Chinese. My personal highlight was being invited to a major Chinese sports show one day after the gold medal where I got a star on the Chinese Olympic Gold medallist winners’ "wall of fame".
If you could do any other career what would it be?
I would love to be a writer (novelist). In recent times, I have written two books about mental strength and about China. Doing that, I found out that I love writing.
What are your plans for after competition?
After the Youth Olympics I will get back into my own training. Next year, the Olympic qualification for the Rio Olympics is about to start.