Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012

  • The YOG 2012 athletes representing their countries at the World Junior Curling Championships 2015 Photo: WCF/Richard Gray

The first Winter Youth Olympic Games (WYOG) took place in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012. Of the 1,000 athletes that competed, more than 60 of them made their full Olympic debuts at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Three of them won gold medals.

It seems that already, a sporting legacy has been established and even though there were no Youth Olympic curlers in Sochi, 21 of them were at this year’s World Junior Curling Championships (WJCC) in Tallinn, Estonia.

One of those athletes was Martin Sesaker of Norway. Along with Korean Eun Bi Kim, Martin won the silver medal in the mixed doubles in Innsbruck.

This experience has helped Martin develop as a curler. He said: “It was my first big tournament outside Norway and I think it has helped a lot, especially developing more self-esteem. It’s nice to feel like ‘Yeah, I’m a good curler’ and I can build on that.”

The best thing About Curling for Martin is the social side of the sport. He said: “Being on the ice and playing against other people is a good thing. Then again, we have the social thing around curling. Everyone is very kind and gets on with everyone. It’s a big community of great social interaction with different people.”

Martin also thinks this was one of his favourite things about his experience in Innsbruck. He said: “Some of the connections I made with the people were one of my favourite moments. Speaking to people and especially now when we meet them again, those feelings come back.”

Martin’s Mixed Doubles partner Kim, was also at the WJCC this year. Despite neither of them sharing a language in common, they were able to communicate through their phones (using a translation app) to the silver medal.

This week though, the pair have been too busy curling to have a proper catch up. Martin said: “I’ve said hi to her earlier this week but I haven’t had a chance to talk with her yet. I probably should.”
Estonia's Sander Rouk at WJCC 2015 (left) and at WYOG 2012 (right)

For the athletes looking to participate in Lillehammer next year, Martin only has one piece of advice. He said: “My best tip is to try to enjoy the experience as much as possible. Enjoy the games whatever happens. Even if you end up last does it really matter if you enjoyed the games?”

US curler Sarah Anderson’s advice, though, would be how to tackle the competition. She said: “It is a very big stage but just stay calm. You don’t have to think about all the fans out there, all the sounds and stuff. Just focus on your shot and just stay calm like it’s any other event.”

Sarah was part of a USA team that finished the round robin stage unbeaten but went out in the quarter-finals to eventual silver medallists Italy.

She thinks her time in Innsbruck gave her a renewed determination to improve. She said: “My experience definitely drove me to practice and get better. It made me want to get back on the world stage.”

Sarah agreed with Martin when it comes to the social side of curling. She said: “You meet lots of curlers off the ice and that’s the really special thing About Curling - you can be friends with your opponents.”

Amos Mosaner was part of the Italian team who beat Sarah’s USA in the quarter finals. It is the tactical side of curling that he likes.

Speaking through an interpreter, Amos said: “I like it because it is a very complicated game - you always have to concentrate. It is a bit like chess because of the strategy.”

Amos wants to use this experience to help him compete at the World Championships and beyond. He said: “My next objective is the Worlds in Halifax and then I just want to keep playing and hopefully get to the Olympics in 2018.”

Like most Youth Olympians, this was Amos’ first Olympic experience and he feels it has helped him.

He said: “There is no worst team because they are all the best teams in the world so you always have to be prepared for every game.”

Amos feels it is important to be prepared and he would advise all prospective Youth Olympians to do the same.

He said: “You should arrive at the event very prepared, both physically and mentally.”

None of this would be possible without former IOC president, Jacques Rogge. It was Rogge’s idea to organise a Youth Olympic Games (YOG) and in 2010 that dream was realised when the first YOG took place in Singapore. The aim behind the tournament was to establish a Youth competition with the same ideals and values as the Olympics.

Keith Wendorf, Director of Competitions & Development for the World Curling Federation (WCF), was a Technical Delegate in Innsbruck and he was impressed by the amount of curlers in Tallinn for the WJCC that competed back in 2012.

He said: “We are quite amazed at those young athletes. We’re actually anticipating that 21 athletes can be like a standard. At least that many are moving up and playing in the world ranks and it might even increase now that it’s a four year age period of eligibility instead of two.”

The curling legacy from Innsbruck may not have been felt in Sochi but it has been felt in Tallinn. Of the 21 Youth Olympians competing at the WJCC, four of them won medals.

While some of them have their eyes on this year’s world championships, many already have the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games firmly in their sights.

Then and Now

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Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012
Feature: Youth Olympians - the class of 2012