Opinion

Surya Bonaly
Champion for Peace and ice skating Vice World Champion

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04/12/2019 par Surya Bonaly

“I want to give youngsters the help I missed so much”

“What would I have become without high performance sport? What would my life have been like without figure skating? More than twenty years after the end of my international career, I still do not know how to answer these questions. I might have been a professional photographer, because I had a passion for photography at a very young age. Or my love for animals could have pushed me to become a veterinarian. But sport has always been part of my life. I had the chance to win medals and a reputation, in my discipline and beyond, in France and abroad.

Being a champion is very rewarding. It’s nice to be acclaimed. But it’s also important to know how to move on to the other side and help others have their turn to succeed in their sporting or personal challenge. I became committed to Peace and Sport with this idea in mind: to help others, especially the youngest ones, to find their way, to keep their motivation, to build themselves as human beings. Champions have a role to play after their careers. They must continue to be role-models, no longer on the ice or in the stadium, but with their words and their testimony.

When I was skating, all this didn’t exist. Athletes didn’t commit to causes, particularly humanitarian causes, as they do today. I suffered from this situation. As a child, I missed this help and advice, these examples to follow, these sources of inspiration. Today, the current generation can rely on social media to make contact with athletes. Youngsters are very connected. The champions’ message is more easily shared, and reaches young people in their daily lives. It is now easier to help and support them.

I am based in the United States, where I work full time as a figure skating coach. I am in contact with young skaters. I regularly visit schools and companies. I tell my personal story, how I started from nothing to reach the Olympic and world podiums. In schools, as in the business world, my audiences are always attentive. They need to be motivated, or get their motivation back, in their academic or professional development. Communicating with children is always very enriching. After an hour’s presentation, after listening to me and watching the videos of my skating career, they have a better understanding of the place that sport can play in their lives and in their future. They realize that sport can help them achieve their goal, their dream. Not everyone aspires to become an Olympic champion, but everything is in our heads: we have the power to cross barriers and to open doors.

I don’t have enough time to do more. I would like to have more contact with young people and help to reinforce the place of sport in the lives of schoolchildren and high school students. In my opinion, sport is almost as important as education for self-development, courage and valour, to impose your personality and to learn to recover from failure in order to move forward. As a Champion for Peace with Peace and Sport, I recently participated in the One Young World Summit in London. It was a great opportunity to encourage youngsters to become game changers. The experience was very enriching. I hope to have the opportunity to renew this kind of commitment. I want to help. I want to play my part.”

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