“Let’s go,” says Daniela Meuli in a mix of Swiss German and English, as she coaches young elite snowboarders during a training camp in Davos, Switzerland. This is one of her jobs. “I also needed some intellectual stuff,” she says. This intellectual stuff is provided at the Research Institute in Davos, where Daniela sorts out lifestyle plans for athletes. Daniela, a snowboard gold medal winner at the Turin 2006 Olympic Winter Games, did quite a lot of soul searching before she knew what she wanted to do after her sporting career.
Like 3,000 other athletes, she was helped in this process by the IOC Athlete Career Programme. For six months she was assisted in defining her goals, objectives and the skills she needed to gain in order to get a real job. “I think all athletes should think much earlier about life after their elite career,” Daniela underlines.
This point of view is also shared by Frank Fredericks, the charismatic former 200-metre runner, Olympian and Chairman of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission. “We have a problem,” he says, “once the athletes stop competing, what then?” Fredericks also stresses that such a programme needs to help cross the bridge between rich and poor countries, as athletes in poorer countries have absolutely no social system to rely on. The XIII Olympic Congress in Copenhagen in October offered the opportunity to seek new initiatives and ideas in this field. The topic was debated under one of the 15 sub-themes: The social and professional life of athletes during and after elite competition.