How to build an Olympian legacy
In partnership with the World Olympians Association (WOA), we hosted an exclusive webinar with two Olympians who have gone on to create lasting legacies in their communities and across the globe. Three-time Olympian Akiko Thomson-Guevara OLY founded her own swim school after retirement and now works as the Chair of the Philippines Olympians Association, while Chris Stokes OLY was part of Jamaica’s first Olympic bobsleigh team and now sits on the board of Jamaica’s Olympians Association.
- Akiko and Chris both recognised the support that they had when developing their skills as athletes and wanted to give something back.
- Learn how the two Olympians put the wheels in motion for their legacies before they retired.
- Watch the webinar and find out about how to contact your local National Olympians Association and how to access World Olympians Association grants.
Speaking to our regular host Jeanette Kwakye OLY and taking questions from the audience, the two guests spoke about the difficulties they faced immediately after retiring and how they found new purpose in supporting the next generation of athletes.
First steps in creating a legacy
The Olympians started the webinar by sharing their own stories of how they reached the Olympic Games and what inspired them to create a legacy.
Chris shared the story of his beginnings in sport. With his country having such a rich heritage in track and field events, he had hopes of becoming a sprinter as a child.
“When I was 12 or 13 years old in my first school track team, the coach thought that I had a lot of potential,” he said. “I made the team, and this coach took me to his car, and he took out a pair of sprinting spikes. He said, ‘These are for you. And you’re racing [on the team]’. That coach was Herb McKenley, one of the greatest sprinters of all time.
“The point is that Herb built on what others had done, then he came back to Jamaica and planted a seed which would one day become Jamaican bobsleigh. I feel a very strong sense of purpose having stood on so many shoulders. Now I need to fortify myself so that the next person from Jamaica who says that they want to be a bobsledder can stand on my shoulders. That’s a legacy.”
I feel a very strong sense of purpose having stood on so many shoulders. Now I need to fortify myself so that the next person from Jamaica who says that they want to be a bobsledder can stand on my shoulders. That’s a legacy.
Akiko now runs a successful swim school in the Philippines, but confessed that she had not initially seen herself taking this path.
“I honestly thought that after my career as an athlete that I would not get into teaching. It was something that was presented to me, I went for it, and it’s been such a blessing.
“I’ve always been involved in sport in some capacity or another, just because it shaped the person that I am, and it’s been such a huge part of me. There was no way for me not to be involved in some way. I just wanted to [give back] out of gratitude.”
Using retirement as inspiration
Retirement from sport can be the toughest time for athletes, as you wonder what comes next in life. It may be the perfect time to give back to the people and communities who helped you achieve your dreams.
Chris admitted to how difficult life was for him once he stopped competing, but thinks that part of being an athlete is about giving back.
“I woke up one morning and I was just Chris Stokes, some ordinary guy. I was no longer on the field of play and it was among the most difficult years of my life.
“But having that OLY after my name means that I have a talent and that I am part of the movement of Olympism. I see legacy as a duty. I can’t think of a more important thing for an Olympian to do than to develop a legacy.”
To get involved in setting up your own legacy, it’s important to seek help from others. National Olympians Associations (NOAs) are organisations recognised by their National Olympic Committees whose overarching goal is to empower Olympians to help them make the world a better place.
And Akiko believes that just reaching out to your local NOA can be the start of something special.
“If there is an NOA in your country, it’s good to be involved,” she told the webinar guests. “When there are more minds involved, the possibilities are greater. If you know what you want to do [to give back], you need to find others who are keen, too!”
Citizens of the world
To sign off the webinar, one audience member asked Chris about how he can help build a legacy in a country that he wasn’t born in.
“As an Olympian, you’re a citizen of the world,” Chris said. “You belong wherever you are. Just start with small things and help a single person, then two people, then three people. Don’t disempower yourself and be bold.”
Our webinar series
The webinar was the latest in our series designed to empower and support you. Earlier webinars have brought insight from a broad range guests, from Olympic champions such as Eliud Kipchoge, Axel Lund Svindal and Ashton Eaton, to mental health expert Dr Claudia Reardon. Our latest instalment saw Akiko and Chris discuss how they have managed to build sporting legacies following their multiple appearances at the Olympic Games.