Less than 100 days remain before the start of the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China – and Monika Fašungová is counting down excitedly.
The 26-year-old from Bratislava, Slovakia, is one of two Young Ambassadors (YAs) in badminton – Shamim Bridget Bangi (left) of Uganda being the other – for the Games that will be held from 16 to 28 August 2014. Fašungová (featured image) and Shamim Bridget Bangi are among 104 Young Ambassadors drawn from various sports. Their role is to promote the Youth Olympic Games and the Olympic values in their countries and to help athletes of their national teams get the most out of their YOG experience.
“I’m very happy to be a Young Ambassador,” Fašungová said. “It is a great opportunity to experience such a big event and it is a new role for me. I feel ready for it and I just can’t wait until August.”
Young Ambassadors will encourage athletes to interact with participants from other sports and backgrounds, experience new cultures, and to take part in activities and workshops centred around sport, such as sessions on healthy eating, injury prevention, anti-doping, careers in sport and media training. These sessions are expected not only to equip athletes with skills and knowledge, but also to enhance their life skills and be ambassadors for their respective sports off the field of play. Given such role models, young people everywhere can look up to athletes in their communities as torch-bearers of Olympism.
The Young Ambassador programme was successful during the first Summer Youth Olympic Games in 2010 and the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012, after which the number of YAs was increased from 30 and 33 respectively to 104 for Nanjing.
Fašungová, a four-time national champion in Slovakia and a 2012 Olympian, has fond memories of a four-day seminar (right and below) held in March in Nanjing to prepare the Young Ambassadors for their role during the Youth Olympic Games. The YAs tried and tested the activities that will be on offer to the athletes during the YOG.
“During those four days, I learned a lot about my mission,” said Fašungová. “We tried so many team-building activities inside and outside the National Park in Nanjing. It was fun and youth athletes can looking forward to try the same in August. We had lectures from the former Young Ambassadors as well, who were inspiring and motivating. We were also part of the chef de mission seminar, cooking, music and stress relief.
“Altogether there were 104 young ambassadors from all over the world and it was really nice to see how strangers can become friends in just four days. We can’t wait to return to Nanjing to see each other again.”
The other Young Ambassador in badminton, Shamim Bridget Bangi, is studying banking and insurance at Ndejje University in Kampala, Uganda. The 21-year-old, who has competed in several international events including the 2010 Commonwealth Games, said she was inspired to pass on her learnings to young athletes.
“It (seminar) was such a wonderful experience. There was team building which involved making friends and working together. I had never worked in such a huge team. This built my self-confidence and it was great talking to young ambassadors with different backgrounds. Workshops about culture, media, career in sports and agriculture contributed a lot to my understanding.”