Sjef van den Berg – Olympian and Athlete Role Model

The Youth Olympic games are basically the actual Olympics, for people ranging from 14 to 18 years old. The third edition of these Youth (summer) Olympics were held in Buenos Aires, and I was asked by the International Olympic Committee to attend the YOG as an Athlete Role Model.

First off, what is an Athlete Role Model (ARM) exactly? An ARM is someone who has (had) a successful and exemplary career on and off the field and is willing to give back to the sport to inspire young athletes and youth in general. An ARM is a passionate believer in the power of sport and the Olympic values.

The first days Aída Roman and I were in Buenos Aires, were very, very fun! We spent time at the archery range and answered questions about a lot of things. Technical stuff but also just general questions about how we spend our days as pro athletes and what we do to improve!

We got to do a presentation about different subjects, too. I decided to go for: “How to keep the fun in archery?”. It ended up being a story about my journey to mental wellbeing, but I hope and think both the athletes and coaches enjoyed the talk and got the chance to think about their sport from a different perspective. Aída did a very detailed talk about injury preventions. A presentation even I got a lot of new information out of.

We got to experience some new things as well. I watched my first match of Beach Handball ever, and it was great! I never knew handball could be so fast-paced and explosive, and I already liked the ‘regular’ version! Obviously, having a total of 32 sports there we also got to meet a lot of ARMs from other sports and nationalities. It was great to engage in conversation and learn about each other and the sports we compete in.

This is what makes a multi-sport event so great in my eyes. It reduces the gap between sports and gives you the opportunity to take a look at how other people solve problems similar to yours.

The Youth Olympic village was a very inspiring place it seemed. With a vibrant centre plaza, where a lot of young athletes gathered to hang out and have fun, it was vastly different to the village in Rio for example. It was great to see the youth mingling and I think they benefited from their experience there hugely.

The actual archery competition was very nice to watch. We have seen some very high-level shooting, and even though it was only 60m as opposed to the 70m in senior competitions, the averages were impressive, to say the least.

The harsh sun and gusty winds made it challenging but interesting to shoot in, and we saw some upsets because of it.

After all, I had an amazing 9 days, with great company. I am happy to have had to opportunity to go to a Youth Olympic Games even though I never had the right age to go to one, and I foresee a bright future with some great archers. It was cool to witness it from close-by and I encourage everyone to try to get there, as an athlete, or spectator.


Photographs courtesy of Sjef van den Berg.