Do not quit, focus on the effort not the result, always cultivate interests outside sport and remember: you are a role model.
Simple advice for those competing at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games but invaluable when delivered by a host of champions who have been there and done it all.
Kikkan Randall (USA), Emma Terho (FIN), Sandro Viletta (SUI) and Thomas Bach (GER) kept a packed audience of aspiring sporting stars enraptured on Monday evening as they shared lessons learned during the course of 13 Olympic Games, three gold medals and countless unseen hours spent in gyms around the world.
“When it is tempting to back down or to give up or not believe that is when you really switch your mind on, think about the work you put in, give yourself some perspective and go ‘Why not? Why not go for it because you never know what is going to happen’,” Randall said.
She should know. The now 37-year-old spent more than 15 years dedicating her mind and body to cross country skiing before, in her fifth and final Olympic Games, she won that longed-for gold.
Such dedication requires early starts, something Bach, the Montreal 1976 fencing team champion and current president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has always struggled with.
“I had many moments when I wanted to quit,” Bach said. “Every time when I had to go to early training at 5am or 6am, I would think ‘this is the last time I will do this’. I was never an early bird and I am still not today.
“Then at some point you realise that these training sessions are the most successful, the ones where you do not want to go, you make the biggest progress.”
For Bach it was the support of teammates and a charismatic coach who kept him going through those dark dawn hours. All four champions agreed that inspiration must be sought from as many sources as possible.
The modest Randall must know she provides motivation for millions. After capping her career in fairy-tale style with team sprint gold at PyeongChang 2018, the USA athlete was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. Following months of treatment she got the all clear a year ago and, in a style complicit with her entire sporting career, she swiftly completed the New York marathon.
“When I think back to my performances it was the satisfaction of the effort that is truly the lasting memory for me,” Randall said. “The medals and awards were really exciting but I know I went out and gave everything I had.”
Terho, who as a 16-year-old in Nagano in 1998 became Finland’s youngest Olympic medal winner, was keen to point out that you are never too young to be a poster figure yourself.
“If you see something you can dream about it, you guys, you are role models for younger kids,” the five-time Olympic ice hockey player said. “People are seeing you guys, they are looking up at you.”
The closing word goes to one of the figures behind Lausanne 2020. When asked if, given all the sacrifices required, a life in sport was really worth it, Bach did not hesitate.
“Go for it,” he said. “A normal life is boring.”