Nuno Merino: YOG athletes, just enjoy the show!
Having already spent a couple of days in the ARM Lounge at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Village (YOV), Athlete Role Model (ARM) for Trampoline and member of the FIG Athletes’ Commission, Nuno Merino (POR), attended the Trampoline competitions at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre Gymnastics on Thursday and Friday. Nuno is one of thirty-eight Athlete Role Models giving advice and guidance to the 3,800 athletes at the YOG.
Q: Nuno, can you tell us about your role as Athlete Role Model here in Nanjing and what are your first impressions of the YOG?
Nuno: I have been extremely excited about this for a while. This is my first opportunity as a former athlete to talk with the athletes outside the Trampoline arena and to help them with different kinds of things. Before I came here, I did not expect the Youth Olympics to be as big as they actually are. Maybe in China, I should have, as they don't do anything small here. Everything is big. The first thing I was amazed by was the opening ceremony. After that I started my activities as Athlete Role Model and I have been in the village every day, where I talked with the athletes during the different programmes that they offer. I think this is very important and I wish I could have passed through those steps myself, when I was a young athlete. During the Athlete Career Programme, we teach them how to choose their support personnel and to manage their schedule correctly for instance.
Q: Do you have the impression that the athletes in the village appreciate this opportunity? Is there good participation in the workshops?
Nuno: Yes, absolutely. In the first days the participation number was exceeding everyone's expectation and that is really great. According to statistics received through the Yogger nearly 80% of the athletes had participated in the activities already in the beginning. I did the Athletes Career Programme and Injury Prevention so far and I am still going to do the Play Fair and Safe Sport programmes and I am excited about going back to the ARM Lounge.
Q: What struck you most in the conversations you had so far with the athletes?
Nuno: I spoke to some Brazilian athletes and I noticed that all of them have a lot of school and not many hours per day scheduled for practice. Neither is the school programme adapted to the sport, it's the opposite; school is the first priority. That's not a professional life in sports. I think in order to be successful in sports the school programme needs to be adapted and not the other way around. The implementation depends on the programmes that are available in the different countries.
Q: What impression do you have of the male trampolinists that are practicing right in front of us at this moment?
Nuno: I can tell you their level is quite high; I'm very impressed. Their level of difficulty is a little bit lower than the seniors', but not that much. Most of them could compete at senior level and have good results. I know that the gymnast from Portugal, Pedro Ferreira, already qualified for the senior World Championships in November. The girls' level here is more diverse, I think. We could see a gap between the higher and lower level.
Q: Looking at your experience as Athlete Role Model here at the YOG, is there anything you will take home and work on with your own athletes?
Nuno: Actually, I have already been sending text messages to my gymnasts with things I saw here and that I want them to do. I will go home with a different perspective. As a coach you are so used to doing your own thing that when you come to a competition like this you open your eyes and broaden your own view. Regarding the educational activities, we already have a few things in place at home. We give out brochures on healthy eating for instance. The YOG is like a reminder for me to keep doing it. Tonight I will be doing a workshop on healthy cooking and I look very much forward to it.
Q: How do you interact with the Athlete Role Models of other sports here in Nanjing?
Nuno: Last night, I played Badminton with a former Olympic and World Champion, that was cool. We also had a dinner with the IOC Athletes Commission that was attended by almost all the ARMs. It was really interesting to meet them all. The former IOC Athletes’ Commission President Frankie Fredericks from Namibia who will be an Ambassador for the next Youth Olympics 2018 in Buenos Aires came to watch Trampoline yesterday. He asked me about all the rules in our sport since it's not easy to understand them for and outsider
Q: Do you have a special message for the YOG athletes?
Nuno: My message is always the same and at this level it makes even more sense than at seniors. Have fun in what you are doing! Understand, that by being here you don't need to prove anything to anyone. You already proved that you are good enough to be here. Just enjoy the show and be yourself!