The 2008 Olympic fencing champion describes her experiences on the IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC), and explains how she is engaging with athletes
I was elected to the IOC Athletes’ Commission at Rio 2016, and I’ve found the first year to be really interesting. The roles of our Commission members cover 360 degrees of every area that affects athletes, and I love the internationality of the group. Everybody has their own angle that can be put to the table, but there’s such a great atmosphere – there is no disharmony, and I think that is pretty special.
Making communication a priority
We have agreed that communication is the biggest area that everybody needs to improve on. In many cases there is a lot of information, but not enough people know about it – and so the question is how to communicate it best. And that’s why it’s so important that we created a new Strategy that addresses how we distribute information.
We have a lot of meetings and do a lot of brainstorming, and we’ve been holding more video conference calls than ever before, to ensure that we’re in constant exchange. You need to give it time, but you have to put ideas on the table – even if implementation seems far away. If you don’t put it on the table and pursue it, then there’s no chance that you will ever make it happen.
Engaging with athletes
Already I feel I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to many areas, but what I’ve been doing recently is working on Games-time activations and the Games-time experience. I really love the idea of being able to change and improve these details, to help create a sound environment so that the athletes can perform at their best.
Part of our responsibility as IOC AC members is to engage with athletes in the Olympic Village, and that’s also the thing I enjoy the most – talking to athletes from all over the world, and getting to know what their problems are. Because you can see that in almost every country, there is a different focus. To really get the whole picture, you need to be in the Olympic Village talking to the athletes – and myself and the other Commission members were based at the Athlete365 Space during PyeongChang doing exactly that.
The career after the career
As part of my role with the IOC AC, I also want to push forward dual career and educational opportunities for athletes, which is something I’m very passionate about.
In Germany, a lot of our Olympic medal winners – across all the sports – have an academic background. Elite athletes think they have no time to study, but they do if they manage their time well. For example, I studied Chinese and Business Studies at university while I was competing – and I did my last exam only four weeks before I became Olympic champion in Beijing.
I’m transitioning to the after-sports career now, and I’ve been doing some business representation to connect Chinese and German companies. But what I do most is give speeches at company events about mental strength, balance, preparation and the importance of the entourage. I really enjoy that.