(L-R) Beach volleyball player Tim Brewster, young change-maker Ty Walker and canoeist Ria Sribar sit together prior to the Closing Ceremony on Oct. 18, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – 2014 Olympian Ty Walker was selected as Team USA’s Young Change-Maker for the Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018. The snowboarder and college student lived in the Youth Olympic Village, served as a role model and helped to get the team engaged in the Learn & Share program.
Walker spoke to TeamUSA.org about her time as a Young Change-Maker prior to Thursday’s Closing Ceremony.
What was a typical day like for you at the Youth Olympic Games?
Every day was a little different depending on what events were going on and what needed to be done. But on a typical day I would wake up, get some breakfast in the dining hall, maybe have some Young Change-Makers meetings where we could discuss how people were engaging in the activities in the town, ways to improve events and make sure athletes were happy with what was going on.
Then we’d go see some events. It was really cool to see the summer sports. I got to check out a ton of sports I’ve never seen before, which was awesome. I would sit with athletes or other staff in the stands and just support the athletes. It was great to learn about what they do and see them in action.
Then I’d come back to the village, eat, take some time to catch up on my own school work. Then typically at night we’d have some of the athlete educational programs, so I’d organize with the teams if they wanted to go to one of the tents or attend a specific talk in the village. I was just trying to get everyone engaged and involved.
What sort of things did the athletes learn from the Learn & Share program?
There was quite a lot going on. There were cultural activities in the village every night. That could be anything from circus performances to food activities. There was karaoke – I don’t know if that was really cultural, but it was still a fun activity to do. There were also small sports games like futsal, so you’d see athletes from all different nations playing sports together and trying out new sports and learning and having fun together.
There was also the performance accelerator tent. It was paired with an app on your phone that tracked your range of motion in many different directions and flexibility in different exercises like squats and pushups and things like that.
There were tents with educational activities to support your athlete journey and learning about safe sport, time management, career planning, anti-doping, other forms of abuse in sport like betting and other education topics to understand the resources available to you as an athlete.
There were also focus days, so each sport had one. It was a time for you to meet with all of the different athletes who participate in your sport from around the world and talk about issues that affect your sport specifically, what is the culture of your sport and how things can be improved.
Chat with Champions was another big one, where they had previous Olympians and Athlete Role Models come in who were really successful in their sports and talk about their own path to the Olympics or talk about following your dreams and motivation. I think those were pretty impactful and I really enjoyed going to those.
What was the most surprising thing for you during your time at the Youth Olympic Games?
One thing I really, really liked about the Summer Games and wasn’t really expecting was the culture in the village. You know for the Winter Games it is cold outside and athletes are either in their rooms, going to the dining hall, going to the gym or going to training.
Where here there was a really cool camaraderie and cross-cultural engagement that I’ve never seen at a sporting event before. Everybody is out in the town and hanging out and playing. Whether they are tossing around a hacky sack or soccer ball or just going to get food together and walking around, there was just a great energy and liveliness in the village.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time in Buenos Aires?
Definitely watching the women’s basketball team win their final game against France. It looked like it might be close during the first few minutes, but then the U.S. women had such a great defensive game and totally shut out France. There was a great energy in the stands and the Argentinians would come out in full force and it was totally insane. The entire stadium was packed and the outside area of grass around the stadium was packed with thousands of people.
Another favorite was that I got to watch Emily Shilson win gold in wrestling. I know she’s pretty quiet. She has a quote on her Instagram bio that is something along the lines of let your success speak for itself. I got to see her totally come into her own on the mat and dominate the match. She was clearly the best wrestler I watched the entire night. She’s such a cool and modest person and it was super empowering to watch her out there.
What would you say to other athletes considering applying for the YCM program?
I would definitely encourage them to do it. I think it is a great way to understand some of the behind-the-scenes action that happens. It may not be my goal to work for the International Olympic Committee or something one day, but I still love sports and I love what they do. Ideally I would go into medicine and support athletes, so it’s not completely off topic. But I think at some point in your career it’s valuable to understand all of the people that have supported you, and the things they have to do to make the Games happen and support that.
I think there is also value in not only taking your own athletic career into consideration, but I want to help the next wave of people coming up in sport and serve as a role model and ambassador. I think it is so important. You get a lot out of it and you also get to impart a lot of wisdom on the athletes.
What parting words of wisdom do you have for these young athletes as our team leaves Buenos Aires?
I would tell these athletes to look back on their experience here after they get home. A couple days after they get home they should reflect back on all of the things that they were able to do when they were here. I think it’s easy when you’re an athlete and you’re traveling and training and competing to let big events pass you by. But this was such a unique experience, so really give it some time and look back on the friendships you were able to make, the number of countries you were able to sit with in the dining hall, the people you went to the gym with or sung karaoke with in the village. Really look at those things and understand how special it is to be a part of that.