Switzerland’s Thomas Bussard made a great impression in winning the first men’s ski mountaineering event at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020.
On the Villars-sur-Ollon circuit, he achieved the double with his twin brother Robin in the individual event, before triumphing with the Swiss team in the mixed relay. A few weeks later, he looks back with us on this unforgettable time and its impact…
Is there one particular image you have kept of the YOG Lausanne 2020?
Yes, there is one above all which remains etched on my memory. It was when I crossed the finish line and my brother wasn’t there. And then a few seconds later, he finished and we hugged. It’s one of many other memories, but it has really stayed with me.
Were you surprised by the enthusiasm surrounding the competitions?
Yes, it was fantastic. It was highly motivating with all the bells and flags. And then there were also lots of supporters with hats with our names on them. It really pushes you on, and shows how competing on home soil helps.
You had already competed in several international events, but I imagine that you’ve never experienced anything like that?
We had competed in the World Championships the previous year in the same place, with pretty much the same competitors, but winning at the Olympic Games was something I’d dreamed about since I was a small kid. The dream became a reality there. And then the medal ceremony in Lausanne in front of everyone – I still get goose bumps just talking about it.
Was there any advantage to competing on home soil?
Yes, I think there’s always an advantage to competing at home. But the other athletes had already competed here, mainly for the World Championships. But we had the advantage of having the crowds on our side. I think that’s a great plus.
Were the conditions ideal on the first day, for your individual event?
Yes, it was a perfect day. The first win was the best. I’d never experienced anything like that. I did the race with Robin and we finished in first and second place. Last night, I watched the race on video again just before going to sleep, and it still sent shivers down my spine. These memories will really stay with me for my whole life. No one can take them away from me. It’s absolutely incredible. I want to do it all again at least once.
And what about competing against your brother? Were you rivals?
No, we were brothers. Before the race, we said: “We win together, or we lose together.” Clearly, if he had broken his leg, I would have continued the race. But we were partners, not rivals. It’s true that when I passed the finish line, I had won and I was really happy, but until my brother had finished, I hadn’t really won. When he crossed the line in second place, I said: “We did it !” I hugged him, and it was just incredible.
That day, you were both able to enjoy being at the Medals Plaza in Lausanne…
Yes, usually, when you step on to the podium after a race, there are maybe around 30 people watching, depending on the competition, but there, there were perhaps 3,000. There were lots of people stepping up to the podium and then I heard: “Thomas Bussard, Youth Olympic champion”, and I got chills down my spine. You begin to grasp it finally. When you see the Swiss flag fluttering with your parents, your friends who didn’t go to school in order to come and watch you. It was really a crazy experience.
After this double you managed to win gold in the team event
Winning on your own is good, but winning in a team is really great. We were really eager because we hadn’t really competed much in the sprint event, so we had really wanted to show what we were capable of. What’s more, we get on really well with the two girls. We aren’t really used to competing in teams. It was really special to be able to win together.
Have you felt the impact that your performances had in Switzerland?
Oh, yes. For a start with all the media there, it provided great publicity for our sport, which isn’t as well-known as Alpine skiing. People really had to be well into it to follow our sport. Not forgetting all the messages I’ve received. There was real enthusiasm.
Do you have any figures to give us?
Yes, for example, on Instagram, I reached 20,000 likes in five days, when normally it’s around 300 in five days. Before the YOG, I had 1,800 followers, but now I have over 3,000. It quickly goes up – it’s impressive.
Have you successfully returned to competition after the YOG?
Yes, I went to the World Cup, but I also went back to school to come back to earth a bit. It gives you a boost of course, but you have to recognise that we were also quite tired with all the requests and interviews. There was a bit of a lull, but we can say that the main objective of the season was fulfilled and anything that comes after that is a bonus. We have competitions continuing until April and then afterwards it will be pretty much the end of the season.
Now I suppose you’re dreaming about competing at the Olympic Games?
Yes, of course, but first our discipline has to be accepted on the programme of the Milan Cortina Games in 2026, and then you have to qualify. It is a dream of mine. We’ll see, but it’s quite far in the future. What is for sure is that I’m going to work hard to get there. It will already be a good start if our sport is there. After that, we’ll see who goes.