For The Record

Issue 12 2014

“Athletes are role models”

Zimbabwean swimmer Kirsty Coventry, who joined the IOC Athletes’ Commission in 2012, underlines the importance of athletes’ roles and responsibilities outside their sporting careers.

“I have always said that, as an athlete, you have huge responsibilities, both in your sport and outside your sport. Once you’re in the public eye, you automatically become a role model; and you don’t really have any choice in that – regardless of whether you’re competing at national, regional or international level. The only decisions you can make after that are your actions – am I going to make good decisions or bad decisions? You’ve got to constantly think about that, especially as your profile grows within your sport and within your community.”

“Swimming is a big sport at the Olympic Games, but rugby players and football players, for example, always receive a lot of public attention as well. It becomes a full-time job. Unfortunately, sometimes we see athletes who are good people make a bad decision on the day. That can sometimes affect your sporting career way more than anything you do on the field of play, so we just have to really be aware of it.”

“Our younger athletes are still learning, and I think it’s the responsibility of our National Olympic Committees and our team leaders when we go on a trip, and for our coaches to remind our young athletes [about how they should behave]. For example, putting a picture on social media of you being a bit funny and silly is fine, but there’s always the chance that people could turn it into something else. It’s something that athletes need to be more aware of, and they are becoming a lot more aware of it, taking steps forward by educating themselves and making better decisions.”

“The public should realise as well that athletes are normal people, too, and go through life’s struggles. You’ve got to juggle relationships with your parents, husband, sisters and brothers, in addition to work and social commitments outside that. You have to try to balance all of that while committing to four to six hours of training every day.”

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