Pi Hongyan and Pedro Yang are the two Athlete Role Models (ARMs) in badminton at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in October this year.
Frenchwoman Pi (featured image), who participated in three Olympics (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012) and Guatemalan Yang, who competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics, will join other ARMs such as Moroccan athletics great Hicham El Guerrouj, Chinese diving legend Wu Minxia and Argentine tennis star Gabriela Sabatini as they interact with young competitors at the YOG and offer advice and motivation on overcoming challenges at the elite level. The ARMs will also distribute medals to the winners and conduct educational activities and workshops, including providing tips on leading a healthy lifestyle and future careers. Athletes and fans can also approach ARMs during ‘Chat with Champions’ sessions.
In an e-mail interview, Pi and Yang speak to BWF on their role at the YOG:
What struck you initially when you heard you were selected as an Athlete Role Model for the Youth Olympic Games?
Pi Hongyan: I’ve been retired from international tournaments for over five years now; it was a big surprise for me to be selected as ARM. I’m very happy to be part of this project.
Pedro Yang: I was surprised by BWF choosing me as the Athlete Role Model for badminton for the YOG. There are some huge names they could have taken, like Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei, Peter Gade, the list goes on and on but then again I think choosing a role model from Latin America makes a lot of sense as one of the primary missions of the ARM is to connect with the local young community and me coming from Guatemala helps facilitate this task.
What does it mean to you to be able to share your experiences with young athletes and be their role model?
Pi Hongyan: It’s really a big honour for me to have the chance to be an Athlete Role Model for the 3rd Youth Olympic Games. I believe it’s really a good experience for young athletes to participate in the Youth Olympic Games, to get a chance to share their passion for their sport, and to learn the Olympic spirit and Olympic values. This experience should enable these young athletes to become not only champions but also good ambassadors of their sport in future.
It will be also a good experience for me to participate at this event in a different way, to meet young athletes, observe them, discuss with them, and to understand better their engagement in the sport.
I’ve played at the top-level for ten years. There were a lot of ups and downs during my badminton career, but the passion for my sport has always been the guide for me to make different choices in my life. I never regretted the choices that I have made. After I stopped my professional career, I have been able to get involved in charity work, I became a mother of two lovely kids, and I got to live some new experiences in life.
When I look back at my career, I think there are some things that I could’ve done better, so I want to share my experiences with the young athletes and help them in this matter.
Pedro Yang: Besides having good results in the Pan Am region, I can share my experience as a former active member of the BWF Athletes Commission and the IOC Athletes Commission. I was involved in starting the Athletes Commissions in BWF and in PASO (Pan American Sports Organization) as well as many projects aimed at safeguarding athletes. It is very motivating for me to interact with young athletes as they always show great optimism in life as they have all their goals in life ahead of them and if I can help them in any way it makes my day. I have been active in workshops for young Olympians in all previous Youth Olympic Games and they have a fantastic vibe.
What memories do you have from Olympic participation that could benefit young athletes?
Pi Hongyan: The Olympic Games is held only once every four years, but the preparation to participate takes more than four years. I’ve participated in three Olympics: Athens, Beijing and London. Each Olympic is a unique experience.
I want to share with the young players how to avoid injuries before big competitions, how to concentrate on your games when there is a lot of pressure; but for me the most important Olympic memories are of the year of Olympic qualification. There is also a lot of off-court advice to share. I hope my experience can benefit young players and help them to prepare better and be on top of their level at the right time.
Pedro Yang: I think that the memories I have about participating in Athens come even before the Games, during the qualifying period. It is such a stressful time as one has to travel a lot and go through ups and downs and if your ranking is over 50 in the world you have to be very strategic in the way you choose events and that was underestimated back then in 2003-2004. I also had a fun time during the Games and perhaps the best experience was walking in the stadium at the opening ceremony. Most of all, the fact that I am an Olympian has opened so many doors to me especially because I served in the IOC Athletes Commission from 2008-2016 which gave me opportunities to gather the experience, skills and competences that I needed to be in the first Lego League competitions, and I currently work in Lego, which I love!