Norwegian ski legend Kjetil André Aamodt gears up for Lillehammer 2016
The winner of eight Olympic medals and both the youngest and oldest gold medallist in the history of Alpine skiing, Kjetil André Aamodt is a legendary figure in his native Norway. All set to pass on his vast expertise and inspire the next generation of athletes at Lillehammer 2016, he gives his views on the Winter Youth Olympic Games.
What do the Youth Olympic Games mean to you?They’re a fantastic idea. You develop as a person between the ages of 14 and 18. The YOG are all about coming together, being inspired and taking the whole experience and all the values back to your sports club and your community. I competed in my first Olympic Games at that age and I was lucky enough to win the super-G. I soaked up those values and I’ve lived by them. The YOG instil respect for the torch, the Olympic flame that shines in what is an unstable world. You can’t put a price on that. It’s an event where young people can come together and compete in peace, which is so important! Modern life moves so fast, and competition days are a chance to slow things down and come together. Young athletes pick up knowledge and inspiration that they can then take home with them, while volunteers, coaches and leaders can all learn from one another, and the worlds of business, sport and government work together to ensure the success of the event. The YOG have a very big part to play in allowing people to get involved in the movement.
You’re currently taking part in the Torch Tour. What’s your role exactly?
The Torch Tour is a tribute to 19 volunteers ‘changemakers’ from all over Norway. They are the best and they’ve been selected by a jury in recognition of the positive work they’ve done in helping children and young people. My role is to lay on a five-minute training session on each leg. There might be 150 people, 300 or even 500, which is how many turned up in Trondheim. They’re just basic drills, on the ground and with no equipment. It’s easy training and it’s a lot of fun too. It’s great to see people giving their all for five minutes. I’ve been impressed by their efforts and their desire to stay in shape. I’m also there to promote the YOG all across my country and to inspire people.
What kind of responsibilities do you think a champion has?
I think of everyone who’s helped me in my career, of all the values I’ve stuck to through all these years and in my life. Winning, losing, sharing and helping have all brought me so much. I’m still very committed and I’m trying to give back to society everything it has given to me. I’m trying to pass on my knowledge, mainly though my motivational speeches. It gives me a lot of pleasure to speak to people, to see so many faces lighting up in front of me.
What will be your role at the Winter Youth Olympic Games and what are your expectations of the event?
I’ll be there for the last week. I’ll be going out skiing with athletes from the Special Olympics, who have intellectual disabilities. I’ll also be giving talks to sponsors and the youngsters of Lillehammer about my Olympic experiences. There will be 3,000 volunteers there and 1,100 participants. They’re all going to have a great time competing and helping each other out. It’s they who make the sporting movement a positive force for the future and these moments will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Let’s go back again to Lillehammer 1994, where you won three of the eight medals you picked up in your wonderful Olympic career. What thoughts went through your head at the time?
Taking part in the Games at home is an experience you will always remember. I remember my downhill run at Kvitfjell and the inspection run before it. It was -25°C and we saw 60,000 people walking to the site down at the bottom, which just shows you the amazing impact of the Olympic Games. In the crowd that day was a 10-year-old boy called Aksel Lund Svindal, who went on to become an Olympic and world champion and remains one of the best skiers in the world today. He was inspired by what he saw that day. The Games inspire young people to play more sport. It was a fabulous experience. My father-in-law was one of the volunteers and he’s still talking about it 22 years later. Everyone in Norway still talks about those Games.
You have been both the youngest and the oldest Olympic gold medallist in Alpine skiing, with your last title coming in the super-G at Turin 2006.
It was a magnificent way to bring my career to an end. I’d picked up an injury just before, so I couldn’t have dreamed of anything better than going back and winning another gold. It opened up a lot of doors for me afterwards. An awful lot of opportunities have come my way, and I’ve become a motivational speaker, giving talks in Norway and around the world.