Two-time Olympic medallist and multiple World canoe slalom champion Jessica Fox has told an audience of potential Youth Olympians it is important they are fully aware of laws regarding anti-doping, match fixing and sexual harassment.
Fox, a gold medallist at the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore, told the group of teenagers in Barcelona that education was an important part of their development. The group have had access this week to information sessions highlighting major issues in sport.
"Those are issues that plague sport, and unfortunately that’s the reality," Fox said.
"Some people might not ever experience that, and some people will, so just being aware of them and knowing the signs and how to stop them.
"There’s drugs in sport, and there’s other issues such as match-fixing, injury prevention, and a lot of different concepts and content that we don’t cover in day-to-day training, but here they have the opportunity to do some fun activities and learn a bit along the way, which is really important.
"They are young athletes, and the more they learn now the more they can implement that in their careers later on."
Athletes from more than 60 nations around the world will compete in Barcelona this week for the right to represent their country in the canoe events at this year’s Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
More than 250 boats from six continents will be looking this week to secure one of the 58 places – 29 men and 29 women – available for Argentina.
Fox was not born when the Olympic Games came to Barcelona in 1992, and Tuesday was her first ever visit to the venue on the outskirts of the city that hosted the sprint competition that year.
She said her Singapore experience provided an incredible launching pad for a career which has so far returned an Olympic silver and bronze medal, and 16 individual World Championship gold medals across junior, U23 and senior competition.
"The YOG is a big part of my identity as an athlete, and a big part in shaping who I became as an athlete," Fox said.
"It’s not just about the competition, it’s about being a well-rounded athlete, and learning about sportsmanship, and learning about all the values that the Olympics really tries to get across.
"Being here, and seeing athletes from Kenya, from Thailand, from Iran, from all over the world, it’s amazing."
And she told the audience the hype and the understanding of what the YOG is all about has changed significantly since she competed as a 16-year-old.
"I remember the YOG really clearly," she said.
"It was the first one, so a lot of people didn’t really know what to expect, and a few people were hesitant to go. But those of us that went, we had the best time.
"It was an incredible learning experience. The competition format is very different, but it’s still really valuable in terms of the whole atmosphere, the village life, being part of a multi-sport event.
"And being part of a bigger team. In slalom or sprint it’s just your little team, while at the YOG you’re with every sport. The Singapore experience was great and really helped me for my Olympic Games in London and in Rio."
The International Canoe Federation Youth Olympic Games qualifiers begin on Thursday and run through until Sunday. There will be full coverage at www.icf.com
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