Ana Jelušić: A Young Change-Maker’s life on the slopes
The youngest athlete at the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002, Ana Jelušić went on to compete for Croatia at two further Games (2006 and 2010) and five World Ski Championships, winning two FIS Junior World Ski Championship medals and twice making the World Cup podium. A Young Change-Maker at the first Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Innsbruck in 2012, Ana is back at the Games this week as a member of the Croatian team off the field of play. We caught up with her in PyeongChang.
What have you done since retiring from competitive sport?
“At the age of 24, I was struggling with health issues and ready to take up a new challenge, and started my second career working in communications and PR for one of the biggest sports events in my country and serving on the Croatian Fair Play Committee. I was given the opportunity to work internationally a year later: I have since worked twice for the IOC as an Olympian intern and athlete relations project manager, and spent four seasons as media coordinator on the men’s FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Tour, where I hosted a skiing-focused YouTube show and a live show for Eurosport. I am currently working as a consultant in the roles of global community manager for Salomon Racing and head of communications for the Croatian Ski Association, and also consult on other projects.”
How did you become involved in the IOC’s Young Change-Maker Programme?
“I had just taken a year off from skiing to focus on my health, and my NOC asked if I would be interested in becoming a Young Ambassador [the previous name for the IOC’s Young Change-Maker Programme] at the first Winter YOG in Innsbruck. I said yes immediately as I loved the idea of supporting young athletes and making their first Olympic experience the best it could be. I came out with one of the most life-changing experiences of my life: I made new friends I’m still regularly in touch with years later, I met people who shaped my career after I retired, and I got to experience the Games through the eyes of athletes who were just beginning their Olympic journeys. I will cherish all of those memories for the rest of my life.”
What are you doing in PyeongChang?
“I am working closely with the Croatian team and am also working with a ski brand (Salomon) in a communications role, trying to share some of the Olympic spirit with those at home who couldn’t be here. I’m also trying to support our athletes with whatever they need; I have been in their shoes and am thrilled to provide some guidance if asked. I moderated the World Olympians Association Olympians for Life event, and am keeping busy while also trying to enjoy the Games.”
What’s been your highlight of the Games so far?
“It’s the first time that I’ve spent time in the Olympic Village at the Winter Games. When I was an athlete, I stayed outside the Village to focus on my events, so this year I’m loving the opportunity to see a different side of the Games. In no other competition can you rub shoulders with so much diversity.”
And what are you most looking forward to between now and the end of the Games?
“Getting some sleep! I don’t want to miss anything, so I’ve been on the go from morning to evening. I am hoping all the Young Change-Makers here will manage to get together at some point and catch up with each other. Scheduling is quite the challenge as we are all busy running around!”
What are your ambitions for the future?
“I want to stay close to the sport and find ways to use my experiences and knowledge to give back to it. I am a three-time Olympian, but I don’t want that to be the only highlight of my career – I believe I have a unique set of skills to go on and excel in whatever task I pursue next. For now, being on the ground close to the athletes and sharing with the world the beauty of sport is what I like the most, but who knows what the future has in store!”