Since retiring in 2016, Argentine wrestler Yuri Maier has built a new career helping other athletes through the IOC’s Athlete Career Programme
Freestyle wrestler Yuri Maier was one month short of his 27th birthday when he took to the mat at the Pan Am Olympic qualifying event in March 2016 – with a place at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 up for grabs.
For Maier, though, the event brought disappointment. The Argentine wrestler’s hopes were dashed in the opening round – and having suffered through one too many injuries, he began to consider that his career might be over. What would he do next?
The final curtain
Maier’s 13 national titles made him Argentina’s most decorated wrestler of all time, but one ambition remained unfulfilled.
“The decision to retire was a very difficult one. It was my dream all my life to wrestle at the Olympic Games. That’s why I took part in the qualifying competition – but I have had too many serious injuries, and my body has been punished.
“I thought about quitting but I did not want to give up on my dream without one last try. I am happy to have done it, but the time had come for me to do something different with my life.”
Maier moved on from his disappointment by quickly finding a new focus. He now works for United World Wrestling (UWW) and Argentina’s National Body of High Performance Sport – and is also now helping a new generation by working with the IOC’s Athlete Career Programme (ACP).
Created by the IOC and delivered in cooperation with the Adecco Group, the ACP helps elite athletes build skillsets and job networks to successfully create new lives and careers after their competitive careers have ended.
“I am the proof that a career can come to an end very suddenly,” says Maier. “Of course, it is sad, but you cannot feel sorry for yourself forever – you have to use the spirit that made you a good athlete for other things.”
A bright future for every athlete
While Maier has helped dozens of athletes through his work with the ACP, the programme has also helped Maier himself transition to life after competition.
“Being part of the ACP has been like therapy for me. To still be around other athletes has helped me come to terms with retirement, and it has given me a new way to channel my energy and enthusiasm. For many years, I had to fight as a wrestler – and now I am fighting for something else, to help educate others.
“All athletes are the same – they are thinking about the next match, the next tournament, the next session in the gym. This is why the ACP exists. Sport will not last forever and it is healthy for athletes to think about the labour market and what they will do with their life when they cannot compete any more.”
For Maier, it’s crucial that after retirement, elite athletes take with them the strengths that helped them reach the top of their sports.
“We stress that because they have been successful in sport they can also be successful in making the transition and doing a different job.” Maier himself is living proof that there’s life beyond competition.