Equal Number of Male and Female Athletes to Compete in 2020 Winter Youth Olympics

winter olympics
Photo: Courtesy of IOC/Jeff Briguet/POWDER Magazine

The next generation of skiers and snowboarders will twist, turn, and soar through the air as the third Winter Youth Olympic Games come to Lausanne, Switzerland, January 9-22.

Leading the Lausanne 2020 Organizing Committee as president is three-time ski halfpipe world champion Virginie Faivre, a pioneer who pushed boundaries and dramatically impacted her sport. The retired 37-year-old Swiss freestyle skier competed in the inaugural official X Games ski superpipe event for women in Aspen, Colorado, in 2005.

“Since the Olympic Flame arrived in Switzerland a month ago, the people are starting to realize that Switzerland is going to host the Olympic Games again,” Faivre tells Powder Magazine. “It’s impressive to see the enthusiasm.”

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Some 1,880 young winter sports athletes—ranging in age from 14-18 and representing 70 countries—will compete across eight sports and 16 disciplines in 81 medal events.

“There is so much more here at the Youth Olympics Games than at a normal competition,” said Faivre, who competed for Switzerland at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. “It will help the young athletes for the rest of their careers. They will learn how to get ready for what is coming next both on and off the field of play.”

As a woman leading the efforts of the organizing committee under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee, Faivre is accustomed to being a trailblazer.

“When I first arrived in the sport, women were not allowed at the X Games and we had to fight for the opportunity to compete alongside the men,” says Faivre. “We showed that we can do amazing things to inspire other young ladies to start the sport.

“The message is also very strong here to have for the first time in the Winter Youth Olympic Games total gender equality with just as many women as men competing.”

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Freestyle skiing and snowboard events will be held on the slopes of Leysin Ski Resort, about 22 miles southeast of Lausanne.

“It’s special for me, I was born a few meters away from the Olympic Museum,” says Faivre, noting that she and friends would visit the Lausanne landmark during school breaks. “I’ve always been a big fan of the Olympics—it’s in my DNA.”

Ski and snowboard cross, in addition to ski mountaineering, which is new to the Olympic program, will be held just south at Villars-sur-Ollon. Alpine skiing takes place at nearby Les Diablerets. Ski jumping, biathlon and Nordic Combined events are west of Lausanne, just across the nearby French border.

Faivre, the 2009, 2013, and 2015 ski halfpipe world champion, said that her sport has been elevated to mind-boggling new echelons since the days when she and others were competing in early editions of the Winter X Games.

“It’s incredible to see a sport evolve so fast and to be able to witness those changes,” says Faivre. “I was commentating at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics just four years after I competed and it was insane to see the new levels. I think even more so for the women.”

Numerous test events have already been staged at the various ski resorts and venues last winter and Faivre, working alongside Lausanne 2020 chief executive officer Ian Logan, assures that everything is on target for a successful multi-sport Games.

Undoubtedly, Faivre’s mission will stir emotions to a crescendo as the Olympic flame is lit in Pierre de Coubertin Stadium on January 9, opening Switzerland’s first Youth Olympic Games.

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Past Winter Youth Olympic Games have been held in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012 and Lillehammer, Norway in 2016. Perhaps the most prominent graduate of the Lillehammer YOG is U.S. snowboard sensation Chloe Kim. Kim won two gold medals as a 15-year-old in Norway, an important step along her road to captivating the world’s attention with an inspiring Olympic halfpipe victory at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games.

If Kim’s and other athletes’ success is any indication, new winter sports stars will emerge from the YOG over these 14 days. Faivre has high hopes for bright futures of teen-aged skiers and snowboarders, not only on the slopes and in the terrain parks.

“We really want these Youth Olympic Games by the youth, for the youth and with the youth,” Faivre said. “For us, it’s important to also listen to them. They want a better world and we’re trying to provide a better world through sport.”

This article originally appeared on Powder.com and was republished with permission.

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