Ukrainian Alpine skier Dmytro Mytsak missed out on the Olympic Winter Games 2018 through injury but grasped an opportunity to remain close to the event. Here, the 22-year-old reflects on his recent setback and the inspiration he took from his experience working at the Athlete365 Space in PyeongChang.

From when I was three years old, my father taught me to ski. But my dad, who himself was a professional skier and was selected for the Soviet Union national team, had reservations about his children following in his footsteps. He knew that skiing could be a very dangerous sport. Nonetheless, we often travelled to Europe to ski as tourists, and when I was eight years old I started travelling to training camps with a coach. I soon realised that, for me, skiing was not just a sport, but a lifestyle.

My Olympic journey

After I signed a contract with Italian coach Nicola Paulon, my results rapidly improved. I qualified for the first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games held in Innsbruck (Austria) in 2012, where I ranked in the top 30 across each discipline.

My next step was to be selected for the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. I worked hard to make it. In the season before the Games, I was training 220 days a year. I won my licence to compete, and at 18 years old, I was the youngest participant to start in the super-G. I knew this was only the beginning of my career and I should push on. 

But training for the Olympic Winter Games 2018 was difficult. In 2015, at the Junior World Championships, I suffered a serious knee injury, rupturing my anterior cruciate ligament. And while a successful first season upon my recovery – with a new coach, Hans Frick from Austria – resulted in me qualifying in four of the five disciplines for the Games, I sadly wasn’t able to participate as an athlete, having suffered a recurrence of the same injury at the South American Cup in September 2017.

A new role

I have been working for the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Ukraine and, after a meeting in November 2017, our President Sergey Bubka, and Olena Hovorova – Chair of the Ukrainian Athletes’ Commission – asked me if I wanted to volunteer for the Olympic Winter Games 2018. 

I was given instructions and information about the job at the Athlete365 Space in PyeongChang, and I was really interested. I applied and was offered a position. 

My main responsibilities included engaging with the athletes to promote and raise awareness around Athlete365, the IOC Athletes’ Commission election and the IOC’s key Games-time messages. I played a particularly important role in encouraging athletes to vote, assisting with the electronic voting software and ensuring the rules of conduct were followed at all times. 

Taking inspiration from others

When I saw how diligent and hard-working the staff and volunteers at the Athlete365 Space in PyeongChang were, I took inspiration from them. I recognised that the Olympic Winter Games would not be possible without their work at such a high level.

I gained an incredible amount of knowledge about the Olympic Movement, in particular, the objectives of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, and the resources available for athletes and their entourage. When participating as an athlete, you often don’t have the time to get to know the workings of the IOC. As I was injured, I was able to increase my involvement and see first-hand what goes on behind the scenes.

It was a wonderful experience. We communicated with athletes and Olympic champions, who offered insight into what it takes to reach the top of your sport.

I am sure this experience will help me in my career and after it. I have already started working on new projects together with the NOC of Ukraine concerning the promotion of the Olympic Movement and the Olympic values in the Ukrainian regions. I have plenty to work on and to look forward to.