Venezuelan BMX racer and Olympic bronze medallist Stefany Hernández reveals her excitement at being involved in the first Youth Olympic Games (YOG) to be held in South America, and her plans to inspire a new generation of BMX enthusiasts.
Why did you want to become an Athlete Role Model (ARM) at the YOG?
"I have this feeling that sport has given me so much happiness and so many opportunities in life, that it's now my mission to give something back to sport and to young people in particular. I want to use the YOG as an opportunity to relay the message to young athletes that they should keep believing and keep chasing their dreams."
You have received Olympic Solidarity funding in your sporting career. How will you be advising the young athletes at the YOG who are hoping to secure their own sources of funding one day?
"For most of my sporting career, I have been supported by a variety of programmes – including those run by the National Olympic Committee, the International Federation for cycling (UCI), and the government. These young athletes should be aware that there is always a way to make your dreams happen. Sometimes, athletes give up on their dreams because they don't think they have access to the proper facilities. But there are many programmes that can help you out. When you really want something, you will make it happen one way or another."
How excited are you to be an ARM at the first YOG to be staged in your home continent of South America?
"To have the opportunity as an ARM to come to Buenos Aires – in a country where I can use my mother tongue – and share my knowledge and expertise with the young athletes and the public who will be coming along to the BMX arena is the best way to start giving back and plant the first seed of my post-sporting career. This is a wonderful opportunity for me. I hope I can start developing the ARM programme with the organisers and help make the young athletes feel more prepared."
Apart from mentoring the young athletes on sport, in what other ways are you going to offer them your help and support?
"I'm sure some of the young athletes will not only want me to talk about how I train or how I manage my life, but also about more personal matters. For example, as someone who is in a relationship with another woman, I'll teach them the importance of accepting and welcoming different sexual orientations in sport. Young athletes shouldn't feel that simply being themselves is something that is going to negatively affect their careers. I'm going to remind them that being a human being and a high-level athlete are not two different things. When you are given the opportunity to be yourself, you can succeed."
Do you think it will be easier for you to connect with young athletes and fans alike at the YOG given BMX's reputation as a youthful pursuit?
"In my opinion, BMX is kind of the gateway into the world of cycling. I'd say that most children are attracted to a BMX bike. We're now at a stage in our sport where we can see that there are young BMX racers – girls in particular – who are 10 years younger than me and the other two medallists from Rio, and who are at a very good level already. When you create more opportunities for everyone, young people will gain more knowledge and more skills. I think this is a great opportunity to open the doors for them to perform."