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Three of the athletes who are appearing at the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games discuss the values and the ambitions they share, despite hailing from different countries.
What do 18-year-old Brazilian curler Raissa Rodrigues, 17-year-old Slovakian ice hockey player Michaela Hajnikova and 15-year-old Norwegian ice hockey player Matthias Pettersen all have in common?
The answer is that all three are competing at Lillehammer 2016 and all three have a love of their sports, not to mention team spirit, a sense of the fitness of things, a sense of honour at taking part in an Olympic event, a desire to give the very best of themselves and a burning will to pursue their sporting careers for many years to come.
As Raissa, who hails from the country that will host the forthcoming Summer Olympic Games, explains, Lillehammer 2016 is an opportunity to make exciting discoveries: “My parents share every picture on Facebook. It’s crazy to be in a place surrounded by so many people and so many sports. We know about curling but we really don’t know about anyone else.
“We really don’t know about any other cultures. It’s a big melting pot of ‘What’s this?’. We’re always finding out new things. It’s really cool to be here.”
Unlike Michaela and Matthias, Raissa never planned to embark on a sports career and certainly never expected to find herself competing at an event of this scale: “You know how as a kid you want to be a nurse or a doctor. I never decided: ‘I want to be an Olympian’.”
Discussing her objectives at the Olympic curling competition, the bubbly Raissa says: “We’re really excited to show everyone that we can or we can attempt.”
As for Michaela, she has already mapped out her career and has her sights set on representing her country at the highest level and playing as many ice hockey internationals as possible. The Slovakian says she is not feeling nervous right now, though she cannot guarantee things will stay that way: “Maybe I will be when the matches come. We were preparing in Bratislava and no one knew who was coming here.
“When they told me I was coming I was really glad and excited. It’s an amazing feeling because it’s the Olympics.” Clearly in love with her sport, she is hoping to shine with her team-mates at the YOG: “We are a very good team and when we come on the ice we will play with our heart and do our best.”
Discussing his love for the same game, Matthias cannot remember the first time he pulled on a pair of skates: “It’s definitely been my whole life.”
Quick on his feet, the young Norwegian international says he loves to play fast and to shift from one side of the rink to the other. Looking ahead to the tournament, he sees Russia, Finland, Canada and USA as the favourites to take the honours. “I think we have a good team. I think it’s getting better and better every day,” he says.
“It would be big for us just to win one game. We’re going to do our best and make our home country proud.” He also hoping to get the most out of what promises to be an exceptional competition: “I was happy that I could support my country here. It’s big and it doesn’t really happy often. I’m really happy about that.”
A Brazilian, Slovakian and a Norwegian: three youngsters who share the same values and have arrived in Lillehammer with the same aspirations and the same desire to excel themselves and to keep on progressing, learning and sharing.