Part of the Culture and Education Programme (CEP) that is geared towards teaching the young Olympians about living the Olympic values, the theme for the session was befittingly ‘Getting on Top’.
Indeed, both Yelena and Sergey are no strangers to being the best. Yelena, 28, who is also the Ambassador of the Youth Olympic Games, has clinched two gold medals for Russia, at the 2004 Athens Games and the 2008 Beijing games. She also holds an impressive 27 world records and 15 medals from international sporting events like the IAAF Worlds Championships.
Sergey, 46, broke the world record a jaw-dropping 35 times, two of which have yet to be topped after more than a decade. He also won the gold medal at the 1988 Seoul games along with 11 medals from international sporting events.
The crowd gathered to hear from the two sporting champions welcomed them with rousing applause as they took to the stage. The question and answer session began after a short introduction and video showing each of the champions’ main achievements.
One of the first questions was how high Yelena wanted to set her record. “As high as possible,” Yelena answered. “Sorry to the young pole-vaulters, but I intend to set a record that remains forever,” she said with a smile.
Asked what he thought was key to the sport, Sergey replied: “The most important thing is technical skill. Most of the athletes are good physically but they miss the technical part.” Yelena added: “But you must also have fun and enjoy the competition.”
But what about setbacks or disappointing results? In response to a Chilean athlete who posed the question, Yelena said: “My coach gave me three full days to rest. I went to the sea and swam. I was hanging out, having fun and eating everything I wanted. I ate a lot of ice-cream!”
Sergey on the other hand, said sagely: “If you never lose, you never win. You need both.” He added that athletes should analyse with their coach where they went wrong and how they should improve.” Both Yelena and Sergey agreed that it was vital to learn from those experiences.