Olga Ponomar-Becker: Anti-doping education for Russia’s young athletes
Ahead of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires 2018 in October, three current and former Young Change-Makers (YCMs) from Russia joined forces in Moscow in June to spread the word about the importance of clean competition.
The YOG Nanjing 2014 were a defining moment in the life of Olga Ponomar-Becker. After fulfilling the role of Russia’s YCM in China, she went on to volunteer for the YOG Lillehammer 2016, and continued her Olympic love affair this year by jumping at the opportunity offered by the YCM+ programme to help educate Russia’s young athletes before the Games in Argentina.
The YCM+ programme – now in its third cycle – invites all 200+ YCMs around the world to apply for up to CHF 5,000 to deliver their own social project leveraging sport to make a difference in their community. To date, 19 YCMs have been empowered to deliver 28 incredible projects in 17 countries. These include female empowerment workshops to develop young sports leaders in Zambia, the creation of a network of exercise clubs to tackle diabetes in Mauritius, and a sports outreach programme in Colombia focused on peace-building. Together, these programmes have collectively impacted more than 9,000 young people. For 2018, over 40 initiatives will be delivered by these inspiring young leaders.
For her YCM+ project, Ponomar-Becker decided that three YCMs, rather than one, would be the best way to deliver the anti-doping message. She approached Alexander Pavlov, Russia’s YCM in Lillehammer, and Jane Konovalova, who will take on the role in Buenos Aires later this year, and the trio began work on their “YOG For Clean Sport” project.
“I personally believe in a teamwork approach and decided to contact Alexander and Jane,” she says. “I was very happy that they both immediately supported the idea and wanted to create a unique collaboration of three generations of YCMs.
“It was an honour to represent my country in Nanjing. The opportunity to interact with the athletes was unforgettable. After the YOG I asked myself: ‘Why should I throw away this precious experience?’ and this is why I have tried to stay close to the Olympic Movement. The next generation of YCMs should profit from our stories of success and failure.
“Representatives from the Russian Olympic Committee [ROC] wrote to me to inform me they were planning an Anti-Doping Forum for the young athletes who were the main candidates for participation in the upcoming YOG in Argentina. It was the perfect chance to engage with more than 300 young people and spread the word about our position on the topic of anti-doping. I have been very touched by the recent situation in Russian sport and especially by the consequences it brought to my country. I think that now it is very important to protect our young generation by providing them with a holistic education around the topic of anti-doping and Olympism. Information means empowerment.”
The “YOG For Clean Sport” event was held at the Centre for Sports Innovative Technologies and Preparation of National Teams in Moscow in June. The trio of YCMs set up in the main conference hall and communicated their message to Russia’s YOG hopefuls through a series of interactive activities.
“The idea was to create a zone where the kids could learn about the serious topics in the form of games and using new technologies,” says Ponomar-Becker. “We invited them to take the World Anti-Doping Agency Youth Quiz and they used our YOG photo booth to create images to go with their own anti-doping slogans. The participants also received special souvenirs for posting pictures with the hashtags #YOG2018 and #playtrue, and for following Jane’s YOG groups on social media."
“Our zone was very popular, and not only among the kids. Olympic champions Maxim Trankov [figure skating], Alla Shishkina [synchronised swimming] and Tagir Khaybulaev [judo] participated in the activities, while the President of the ROC Stanislav Pozdnyakov delivered his own anti-doping message.”
For the second consecutive year, the YCM+ programme has been made possible thanks to the generous support of Panasonic.