Members of the IOC Athletes’ Commission share the highs and lows of their Olympic careers and life after sport.
TONY ESTANGUETSkip to content
‘It was the hardest moment in my career’
Tony Estanguet – a three-time Olympic champion for France – reflects on how he had to battle his own brother to qualify for the Games
I have a strong family connection to sport and the Olympic Games, as my father was part of the French canoe team and my brother competed at the Games and won a bronze medal in 1996.
My first time at the Olympic Games was actually in Barcelona in 1992. My brother had been competing for selection to the French team, but unfortunately he didn’t quite make it. He was chosen as the forerunner for the Olympic competitions, however, so my family and I went there as spectators. It was my first Olympic experience and, at 14 years old, it was a revelation. I was so impressed by the atmosphere at the Games and that was the moment when I decided to train as hard as I could to reach the Games myself.
Four years later, my brother won a bronze medal in Atlanta and it was an incredible moment. I was really inspired by what he had achieved. After that, as I started improving, we knew that only one of us could be picked for the team go to the 2000 Games in Sydney, so we were in competition with each other. We were still training together and it was difficult to deal with our emotions because we were both brothers and opponents.
In the end, I beat him to selection. It was the hardest moment and, I think, the most difficult race in my life. Just a few weeks later, without any international experience, I won the gold medal at the Games and I knew for sure that it was thanks to my brother and the training we had done together. When he finished his career, he became my coach and then in London we were able to celebrate gold together.
HAYLEY WICKENHEISERSkip to content
‘It changed my life forever’
Canada’s four-time Olympic ice hockey gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser picks out some of the highlights from her Olympic career.
I’ve had many great experiences while competing in six Olympic Games, in different capacities. To have had the chance to be one of the first athletes to compete in women’s ice hockey, in Nagano in 1998, and then witness first-hand the growth of the game and see the levels it has reached since then has been incredible. It’s been interesting to be an athlete in a new sport that has evolved and grown and is now trying to establish itself as one of the great Olympic events.
If we look at Sochi, it was the most competitive women’s ice hockey tournament that we’ve ever had and it was incredibly gratifying to have been part of an event like that.The final in Sochi was probably the greatest comeback I’ve been a part of, ever since I started playing hockey as a little kid. We were down two goals to the US but we never believed we were out of it. There was something really special about that.
I was also in the Summer Games in Sydney in 2000 and it’s very unique to be able to compare the two. The atmosphere in Sydney was incredible and the Olympic Village was just so much bigger than it was at the Winter Games in Nagano.
I also met Nelson Mandela while I was in Sydney and it changed my life forever. A lot of what he talked about influences how I live my life right now and that’s an experience that I’ll never forget.Finally, to compete in an Olympic Games in your own country is very rare and not many athletes get the chance to do it, so to have that experience in Vancouver in 2010 was very special. To then win the gold and see all the people flooding out onto the streets of Vancouver afterwards, and to feel their incredible spirit, made me proud to be a Canadian and is something I’ll always remember.
PEDRO YANGSkip to content
Guatemala’s Pedro Yang, who competed in badminton at the 2004 Olympic Games, reveals the greatest error he made when he retired and why he loves the Olympic Games so much.
My favourite thing about the Olympic Games is to see the reaction of athletes just after they have finished their competition. Win or lose, they have dreamt of that moment their entire career and the nostalgia takes me back to when I was me competing in the Games.
Once I retired, I didn't do much exercise except heading to the gym and doing easy workouts. I kept eating the same as when I was an active athlete, however, this was a big mistake!
I think this is an issue the majority of retired athletes have. I can gladly say that I am now eating healthier, going to the gym five times per week and try to squeeze in a cardio session each time.
Of course, I still play a bit of badminton and have also developed a new interest for squash and tennis. One day, I hope to also get good at table tennis so I can play some racketlon tournaments, which combine badminton, squash, tennis and table tennis into a single match.
My former coach once told me: never lower your racquet before the shuttlecock hits the floor. That is so true not only in badminton but in life. There is never a situation where one can just give up; we need to always keep our heads high and stay optimist until the end.
I strongly believe that sport is the vessel that can take you to great journeys in life. My advice to people is: find a sport, dream high and fight for your dreams.