LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- By the time Team USA athletes make it to the Youth Olympic Games, competitions are nothing new. For years, the athletes have been making their skills known, traveling to competitions both nationally and internationally.
What makes the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 unique, though, is that it extends beyond a single sport – rather, it is the second-largest winter multi-sport event in the world, behind only the Olympic Winter Games.
“It’s just incredible with all the other athletes around. The vibe is – I’ve never felt it before,” biathlete Etienne Bordes reflected. “The three biathlete boys are rooming with the alpine boys, so we’re pretty good friends now. It’s incredible seeing what the other athletes do.”
Biathletes bunk with alpine skiers, and speedskaters with skeleton racers. In the village, the curlers play cards and virtual reality games in the café with ski mountaineers. Their schedules may be full of practices and competitions, but Team USA athletes still make time to chat with each other throughout their downtime.
Of course, while these athletes are experts in their own sport, that knowledge does not always transfer beyond their event – leading to some fun conversations and questions.
“A lot of times, they say they don’t really know the sport that well,” said alpine skier Emma Resnick. “My simple explanation is: ‘You go down the hill around some poles as fast as you can.’”
Fellow alpine skier Trent Pennington says it’s interesting to hear what other athletes want to know about, and that there is no such thing as a bad question.
“Someone asked me, ‘What’s your fastest time,’” said fellow alpine skier Trent Pennington.
“Which – well, it’s not really like that. Every hill, every course is different and every day, conditions are different, so it’s hard to compare and have a fastest time.”
The questions serve as a reminder of how unique the multi-sport environment is. Taking advantage of the experience, athletes already have a few questions they know they want answered.
Coming from a sport that is smaller in the U.S., biathlete Kaisa Bosek is curious about how athletes became involved with their own.
“I like to know how other athletes got into their sport – how they started, where they train,” she says. “Every sport here is so unique with what they do and how they got involved.”
Learning more about curling is also a priority for several athletes. The sport captured the public imagination when the John Shuster rink clinched America’s first Olympic gold medal in curling at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
But some answers are much more specific.
“I’d probably ask how much of a hard time airport security gives the ice skaters with their sharp skates,” Pennington laughs.
Clearly, a few other athletes had similar logistical questions, as biathlete Maja Lapkass was asked what the process was like for flying with her rifle.
Meanwhile, Lexie Madigan is looking to pick up a few athletic tips from the ski mountaineers. “I don’t know how to get skins off at the top of the mountain for skimo – that’s pretty crazy.”
No matter their sport, and no matter the questions, it is easy for the athletes to find common ground. After all, they’re all here for the same reason: to represent Team USA the best they can.
“To represent Team USA, it means a lot,” said biathlete Lexie Madigan. “To put on this suit, to wear the stars and stripes – it means we’re a whole team and we aren’t just individual athletes at this point.”