Making the Athletes feel Special

Making the Athletes feel Special

The karateka Sandra Sanchez from Spain won silver at The World Games in Wroclaw, Poland in 2017 and gold in Birmingham, USA last summer. Furthermore, she is Olympic champion from Tokyo 2020, and the flag bearer of Spain in the Closing Ceremony. In January, the board of the International World Games Association appointed her as Chair of the newly formed Athletes’ Committee. In the Interview of the Month, the 41-year-old calls on all parties to work together to create a great future for The World Games. 

What does it mean to you to be the head of the IWGA Athletes’ Committee?
It has been a pleasant surprise, and I feel the responsibility. I experienced The World Games with the eyes of an athlete. Now it inspires me that I can do more for the sport and the athletes. I want to contribute to the ongoing growth and improvement of the event.

What issues do you want to address?
My starting point is my personal experience as an athlete, but I have to listen and learn from all my colleagues. What I have in mind is to facilitate the path of The World Games athletes. I want to give relevance and visibility to their stories. We should create awareness of everything that builds up to the day of the competition. This can influence culture and society more widely, through extolling the values of self-improvement, effort and responsibility. I want to let people know about a path that is really worth travelling, to influence the next generations.

What do you want to accomplish?
As already mentioned, if we can give even more visibility to the athletes through telling their stories, this can help them in their sports career. It helps them to get a closer connection to companies and sponsors. We want to increase the relevance of the athletes’ experiences and link them with their sports.The World Games are a great showcase and its athletes should be part of the social scene too, since many people look at us and we can influence and create projects about mental health, nutrition, lifestyles, etc.

Have you had athletes who have already come back to you with input?
We are creating a working group and soon we will have the first meetings to start discussing the first ideas and proposals.

From your point of view, how can athletes’ participation in improving an event like The World Games be carried out?
The World Games are able to create an unforgettable experience for every athlete. Every little detail that we can improve contributes to this goal. The whole process, let’s start with the arrival, where we sleep, what we eat, group activities that help us to meet and exchange ideas, all of these are of importance in creating wonderful memories. All these things make an athlete at The World Games feel special, and experience the massive interest in their sport.

What is the significance of the Games for the athletes?
It’s a unique event for which you have prepared yourself to showcase your sport and your skills, and try to be the best. But it is also a special championship where you can enjoy experiencing other sports and meeting athletes from different disciplines. It offers the opportunity to enjoy both sport and cultural exchange. You can build friendships and get ideas for future plans.

Now that the members of the committee have been appointed, what are the next steps?
We have to balance our different agendas. We all serve as volunteers and we do this with a lot of passion. Hence, being volunteers, the work must converge with our lives in sport, as athletes and with our everyday lives. We have already planned the first work meeting, to be held in the coming weeks, and from that I believe we will start with our first tasks.

The World Games claim to put the athletes at the centre. How can this be done even better?
The athlete must always be the person in the limelight. The athletes’ life stories are impressive, and we must appreciate and raise the awareness of the performance of each athlete. This can be achieved if we join forces to achieve global visibility and prominence. We can connect with our media and we can make use of the media contacts of the different stakeholders. Social networks and social media today are very powerful tools. If we work as a team, the result is multiplied.

How were your experiences at The World Games you participated in?
They were an incredible experience. For me it was very important to be able to share with other sports, to enjoy other disciplines, to be in a place where we could live together and enjoy ourselves. At the same time, the competitions in the Games bring together the best in each sport, every four years. The competition level is impressive. I always wanted to give the best version of myself, to leave a small mark in the history of The World Games.

By 2025, this provisional committee should become a regular one. What do you associate with the idea of laying the foundations for work in the future?
It is good that we have already created a base, and that the objective is a permanent committee. The athletes should have an entity where they can express their concerns, and where we can work with all the sports and all the athletes. It is important to listen to the athletes, as many projects can take advantage of their experience.
Let's work to create something that is only the beginning of a great future!

 The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association, organised with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The World Games 2022 was held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and 100 countries took part in the Games. The 12th edition of The World Games will be held in Chengdu, CHN in 2025.

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