Rose Voisk, who competed in the artistic gymnastics for Yugoslavia at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, had a simple message for her fellow Olympians: strive to be your best in everything you do.
Octogenarian Voisk delighted her fellow Olympians, including WOA president Joël Bouzou, when she visited the Olympians Reunion Centre (ORC) in Rio, regaling those around her with her memories of 1948 and other past editions of the Games.
Most striking of all was her impassioned message about what it means to be an Olympian. “It means everything to me”, she said. “(Becoming an Olympian) was the highlight of my life. I will never forget when I walked into the Olympic stadium in 1948, the first thing I noticed was Pierre de Coubertin’s motto: the most important thing about the Olympic Games is not winning but participating; the most important thing in life is to fight well and not to conquer. This is the motto that has remained in my head for the rest of my life and I truly believe that we should be our very best in every field, not just in sport but in everything we do.
“I learned this from the Olympic Games. Not to compete against others but to compete against yourself to be your very best. This is what it means to be an Olympian. That’s why I appreciate every competitor, from the gold medallist to the person who comes in last place, because they had to work just as hard to become an Olympian.”
Rose has attended a remarkable 11 editions of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games as a spectator dating back to Montreal 1976. Her fondest memories were saved for London 2012, which meant an emotional return to the city where she had competed at the 1948 Olympic Games.
“London, my Olympic city. That was so emotional for me to return in 2012. England had the honour to host three Olympic Games, 1908, 1948 and 2012 and I was there for the second two,” she reflected. “When I visited Wembley Stadium, believe it or not, the guard asked me if I wanted to see the Olympic cauldron from 1948 and he showed me where to look for it. It was not displayed for everybody but they showed it to me because I told him I had taken part in the 1948 Olympic Games; I had my picture taken with it.”