I have just come home from Greece where I was selected to represent New Zealand, along with Storm Uru, at the International Olympic Academy's Young Participants Session held in Olympia from 11-25th June. There were 170 people from 91 countries at the session and we spent two weeks living at the International Olympic Academy, which is situated about 500m from the home of the Olympic Games, Olympia.
The format of the session was a mix of lectures about the Olympic movement and discussion groups along with sports events, cultural evenings and visits to the historical Olympic sites. For me it really opened my eyes to the wider Olympic movement - as something much larger than just the high performance pinnacle sporting event that is the Olympic Games. We had some really fascinating discussions about many issues including commercialisation, politics, doping, legacy and youth in sport.
It was incredible to be able to visit Olympia and see where the Olympic Games originated, to stand on the track where they raced in the very first Olympic Games in 776BC, and to see the place where every two years the Olympic flame is lit for the Summer and Winter Olympics. We walked past the ancient site every time we walked from the IOA into the village of Olympia.
I met some amazing people and made new friends from all around the globe, all working in sport in some way. There were also 25 other Olympians at the session including two medalists - Storm (bronze in London in rowing) and Alina Dumitru (from Romania, gold in Beijing and silver in London in judo). We had a lot of fun over the two weeks, similar to the organised chaos and excitement you would expect at University 'O' week!
It was an extra special time for me as whilst I was in Olympia I realised that it had been exactly one year since my last competition and it was a great chance to reflect on the 12 months since starting my retirement. I've done some pretty cool stuff in that time - been to some amazing places, met some amazing people, got a job and broke some bones, but I never realised how hard it was going to be to stop doing what I loved to do and to know I couldn't go back, and I still feel lost without that single minded focus on a goal which you pour your heart and soul into...but I'm working on a new one!! Stay tuned...
|The International Olympic Academy campus looking from above|
|and from below...|
|Entrance to the IOA|
|The Ancient Olympic site|
|The track at Ancient Olympia, seen from the road walking from the campus into town|
|We recruited people (even two Aussies!) and taught them to perform the haka for a cultural evening|
|Storm and I presented with our certificates of participation from the Dean and the Director of the IOA|