Gold Medals and Golden Moments – the Human Side of the Youth Olympic Games

By Emily Ridlington, Sports Media Canada Special Correspondent and International Olympic Committee Young Reporter

For Enkh-Ariun Altantulga from Mongolia, even having the chance to compete at an international event like the Winter Youth Olympic Games is a challenge.

Enkh-Ariun Altantulga

Unlike her fellow competitors she only gets to practice on an outdoor skating oval in less than pleasant temperatures. Altantulga had no problems in Innsbruck while many other athletes complained about the outdoor venue. I never would have thought to meet a speed skater from Mongolia but these days anything is possible. She was one of two athletes on the Mongolia team, the other was a cross-country skier.

As she sped around the track it was clear Altantulga did not have the flashiest racing outfit or the newest skates like her competitors. She was just happy to be in Innsbruck. Quite frankly her grandmother at home was also glad. For it was her grandmother who got her involved in the sport after Alantulga complained of serious migraines and was almost hospitalized for an extended period at just 11-years-old.

As a journalist, these Winter Youth Olympics Games, provide a unique opportunity for us to gain different perspectives of how these young athletes got involved in their sport. Less of the emphasis is put on who won or who lost and more about who these athletes are and where they have come from. Since the athletes are not professionals yet, and some of them might not be, they seem to give you more time of day in the mixed zone and are as much interested in what you do as a journalist as you want to know more about them. It’s this odd exchange that seems to link athletes and sports journalists together without broaching any potential conflicts of interest.

Elizabeth Gram

Take Austrian freestyle skier Elisabeth Gram. While watching her and the other skiers compete you could not help but notice her expansive fan club who were all wearing t-shirts were her picture on them. They were armed with all kinds of noise makers. Elisabeth had a great couple runs and her fans went wild. Not many people knew that Elisabeth used skiing as an avenue to help her get over the death of her mother.

It is stories like these that I like to uncover. These Games are trying to provide young athletes who might not get the opportunity to compete internationally the platform to do so. Some will go on to the big leagues and compete at the most senior levels while others will go home to their countries as international heroes. I am proud to say I got a chance to interview some of these athletes.