We speak to the International Skating Union (ISU)’s Athletes’ Commission Chair John Coughlin about the Commission’s work on behalf of speed and figure skaters

Following the establishment of the first-ever ISU Athletes’ Commission in 2016, American figure skater John Coughlin last year became the organisation’s Chair, having initially been elected as its representative in the single and pair disciplines by his fellow athletes.

Here, the 32-year-old discusses the role of the Commission and its mission statement for the future of the sport.

Why did you decide become involved with the ISU Athletes’ Commission?

My national federation, US Figure Skating, has always supported the voice of athletes and made them an integral part of the good governance of our sport. I was excited that the ISU was taking such a big step forward and wanted to help build the platform for athletes from around the world to be heard.

What are the Commission’s short-term goals?

The first goal of the Commission is to support athletes as they prepare for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 and to integrate our Commission into the Olympic Movement’s global network of athletes’ commissions. Our intermediate target is to create a platform within the ISU website and an app featuring an “athletes only” section where they can communicate with their advocates and with each other, and be up to date on the latest developments within their sport.

What are your longer-term plans?
As the Commission takes shape, we want to expand our scope to become true ambassadors, to not only help the athletes of today, but also increase the global reach of the sport.

How closely have you worked with the ISU?

They have been very supportive of our Commission from day one. In my opinion, the timing of the creation of the Commission is a great opportunity. With our athletes focused on preparing for PyeongChang 2018, we can work quietly in the background to create the network of support that we want them to have. We are working with the full support of the ISU and plan to unveil aspects of this to the athletes at the end of the season.

How would you describe your relationship with the IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC)?

The IOC AC has been an invaluable resource as we find our feet in the world of athlete advocacy. Its experience in liaising between different International Federations and the IOC, as well as creating proactive initiatives, is a wonderful template that we can learn from. We have already been involved in conference calls and summits where issues are discussed and ideas become reality, and every sport brings a unique perspective.

How can commissions from different sports cooperate to ensure athletes’ voices are heard within the IOC?

The strength of the various commissions that make up the IOC AC’s global network is their diversity. Everyone sees the Olympic Movement from a different perspective, but has the same end goal of growing their sport while staying true to the Olympic ideals. The athletes are the heart and soul of the Olympic Games, and their voice is more powerful when it is united.