"To learn to respect oneself is the strongest value for me!"

The ambassador of Athlétissima, Léa Sprunger, athlete from the canton of Vaud and Olympian in London and Rio, granted us an exclusive interview to talk about the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne in 2020. Yesterday evening she was four hundreds of a second away from beating the Swiss record on the 400m hurdles. In addition, the athlete beat the Swiss 400m record last weekend, and achieved a bronze medal in the European Championships and a thirteenth place in the World Championships in 2016 with the 400m hurdles. She defines her preferred discipline as the 400m hurdles and has as an objective to reach her best performance for the Olympic Games in Tokyo with this distance.

Lausanne 2020 : As the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) are a new concept since 2010 you did not have the opportunity to participate as a young athlete. What do you think of these Games, and would you have liked to participate?

Léa : Absolutely. It is incredible to have a mix of all the disciplines during an event like the YOG. Usually, we are only with sportspeople from athletics, and to be with athletes from all disciplines is very enriching. It’s an opportunity to meet new people and to see what athletes from different disciplines experience.

What I find particularly interesting about the YOG is the whole educational dimension. The athletes are very young and they are not necessarily conscious of the magnitude of the event. At this age, they are very attentive with stars in their eyes, and they are there to learn. To give them inputs concerning more educational aspects is great. I think that it’s this age range is the ideal target!

In addition, every major competition like the YOG is an experience towards the Olympic Games (OG) and the World Championships. The major international competitions empowered me at a very young age. You are far away from your home and you have to go out of your comfort zone very quickly. It was also a great asset for my language skills. Thanks to these major competitions, I learnt to speak Swiss-German with the other Swiss athletes, and spoke English with the sportsmen from the other nationalities.

Lausanne 2020 : You are an Olympian of London and Rio, what did these Olympic experiences bring you personally and sportively?

Léa : From a human standpoint, they gave me a lot because to be selected for the OG is already the achievement of a great objective. To pursue a goal to the end and to succeed is extremely important for one’s self-confidence. I learnt important values such as the importance of being diligent, positive, and to overcome failures and victories. During the Games you live a unique experience. It is almost inexplicable but it brings you great pride. Plus, I met athletes there with whom I now share a circle of Olympians. It is an unbreakable bond with people who lived the same experience as myself.

What also makes the Games unique is the fact that they only take place every four years. A sports career can quickly end and if you miss an Olympic deadline, you have to wait for four years until the next Games. The athletes who have the chance to compete in the OG are therefore very privileged, just like the young athletes participating in the YOG.

Lausanne 2020 : We are lucky to have the YOG in the Olympic Capital in 2020. What does this represent for you, to have the Games here in your city?

Léa : I think it’s great ! It is true that the YOG correspond very well to the city of Lausanne, as it is a very young city. It is the Olympic Capital so it makes sense that the YOG take place here and we truly have all the resources to do well. The infrastructures are here as well as a significant amount of the international federations.

I think that it will contribute a lot for the sport in Lausanne and Romandie, and I hope that we will be able to take the opportunity to instil something in our culture. Things have to move and I think that for the city and the young athletes it will have a positive impact.

Lausanne has always been a sportively active city, we have a lot of sports events. Now we also have the infrastructures that follow this movement. I also think that it will be great for the University of Lausanne to have its future accommodation. From a sportive standpoint it is great, and from an educational standpoint as well.

Lausanne 2020 : In your opinion, which values are conveyed through the Olympic movement, and particularly through the YOG?

Léa : For me, the main value conveyed through the Olympic movement is respect. From whichever place in the world you are, you are at the Games for the same reason and you have reached the same objective as all the other athletes. There is therefore a lot of respect on a sportive level. For example, in Rio there was a team of refugees for the first time, and they were there at the same title as Usain Bolt. At the Games they have the same rights, the same ambitions, and the same joy for life as anyone else.

I think that for the YOG respect is also the main value, which is a part of the education of the young athletes simply by participating in the event. To learn to respect oneself sportively and humanly is for me the strongest value.