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Meeting gymnastics idol Svetlana Khorkina at the FISU Forum

World Forum 14 August 2018

Two-time Olympic champion Svetlana Khorkina gave a talk on Dual Career at the FISU Forum 2018The FISU Forum is the place where international student sport intelligentsia gathers. It’s the go-to place for athletes and officials meet scientists and experts to discuss, debate and collaborate on topics like dual career, gender equality and innovative leadership. For French FISU Ambassador Cécile Chaumard, this year’s edition of the Forum in Krasnoyarsk went beyond even more that.


Chaumard, now 24, was an artistic gymnast in her younger years. As an emerging athlete, she had her idols and was fan of gymnasts from all over the world. One of them was Svetlana Khorkina from the Russian Federation: the two-time Olympic champion, nine-time world champion, ‘too-many times-to-count’  European champion. “How could you not be impressed? She was elegant and strong. She was one of the athletes you remember forever,” Chaumard said on the day she herself will not forget anytime soon.


It wasn’t at a gymnastic center or on television, but at the FISU Forum 2018 in the heart of Siberia, where Ms. Chaumard met the woman met her teenage idoI. Khorkina was there, standing on a stage at Peryia Dormitory Complex, the hub of the action at the Forum, ready to begin her presentation about dual career when the budding French sports leader met the Russian gymnastics legend.


“Meeting former athletes who talk about their careers is interesting,” Chaumard said. “Meeting a former athlete that used to be an idol is just unbelievable.” Especially when that particular person goes in depth about what professional sports was like during her career as a gymnast.


Khorkina addressed the differences between the time when she was active and the present. Explained how difficult it was back then to be an athlete, how hard it was to start building her future as a normal person after retiring from professional sport. The Russian Federation were not providing any support to athletes in 2005 to help them during and after their career, Khorkina explained.


“She wasn’t able to go to university to get a degree as she wanted to,” Chaumard remembered. “Athletes didn’t have many options. One of the few was to go to a sport university to study sport management for example.”


Today would be different, Khorkina said during her presentation. With the rising awareness in the media, on social media and globalization in general, everything had changed. Now athletes, whether they are gymnasts or not, have more opportunities to go to universities. In many places, there are scholarship options available. With the growth and professionalism of sport, there are growing positions to be a commentator, trainer or even a sports team physiologist.


Much has changed regarding dual career in Russia – and around the globe  –  but one thing remains the same, and it was echoed in Khorkina’s concluding words of her presentation: “Don’t be lazy, work hard every day to reach your goals.” Good advice for the leaders, young and old, attending the 2018 FISU Forum.