LILLEHAMMER, Norway -- U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Kate Anderson is one of 39 inspirational leaders to be serving as Young Ambassador at the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games. The Young Ambassadors are responsible for supporting the Youth Olympic athletes during their time in Norway and spreading the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect in their communities.
Developed by the International Olympic Committee in 2010, the Young Ambassador program is just one of the unique elements of the Youth Olympic Games, which are intended to be an event that is designed for, with and by youths.
“When I saw this future generation of young leaders, I am looking forward with great confidence because I know there is a new generation coming up that will make our lives even better,” said IOC President Thomas Bach after meeting with 10 of the Lillehammer 2016 Young Ambassadors at the start of these Games.
Among that group to meet with President Bach was Anderson, who is responsible for encouraging the 62-member U.S. Youth Olympic Team to participate in the Learn & Share program. Another key tenet of her role is to convey the cultural impact of the Youth Olympic Games and how sport can contribute to the betterment of society.
As a Young Ambassador, Anderson also had the opportunity to apply for an IOC grant that will help fund a philanthropic project of her choice through the Young Ambassadors+ initiative.
Anderson plans to roll the grant of 5,000 Swiss francs into an existing foundation, Hope Sports, which creates opportunities for athletes to give back to communities in need. She had the opportunity to witness the foundation’s positive impact when she accompanied 19 U.S. freestyle skiers and snowboarders to Tijuana, Mexico, in June 2015, where they helped build homes for local families. Among the group of athletes to attend were 2014 Olympic silver medalists Gus Kenworthy and Devin Logan, and 2016 Youth Olympic gold medalist Birk Irving.
“It’s a passion of mine to help athletes give back, gain new perspective and find a new purpose outside of competition, which I think actually helps them become better competitors,” she said. “A lot of athletes have reported they come back mentally recharged, helping them do better in school, in their relationships with friends and family, and also competitively.
"The grant will allow me to expand this project to include more Youth Olympic athletes and spread the values of the Youth Olympic Games, driving home the importance of leading a purpose-driven life rather than one defined by your latest results.”
A native of Edina, Minnesota, Anderson serves as USSA’s athletics coordinator, in which she helps research and manage opportunities for U.S. skiers and snowboarders to give back to their communities. Prior to her role at USSA, she interned at the National Institute for Sport, Expertise and Performance while studying abroad in Paris. Under her current role, she will also attend the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, to help manage USSA’s friends and family program.
"I’ve never been to a Games before, so Lillehammer has been a great snapshot of what the 2018 Games will be like, which is extremely helpful,” Anderson said.
When she returns home from Lillehammer, Anderson will turn from one supporting role to the next and head directly to Colorado to assist U.S. athletes at the US Open in Vail. But first, she will help Team USA soak up every last bit of the Youth Olympic Games experience.
"I really hope they embrace the whole experience,” she said. “As competitors, we’ve done amazing, but I hope they are able to take away the friendships they’ve made, the new cultures they’ve learned about and the strong message that they can live for more.
"I like to tell them, ‘You can define yourself in more than one way (other than being an athlete). Use that to create a more peaceful world.’”