Making a difference: The Young Change Makers of the YOG

Rania (left) with Team Singapore at the opening ceremony. Photo: Olympic Channel

15 Oct 2018

By Justin Kor in Buenos Aires

Young Change Makers (YCM) have been an integral part of the Youth Olympic Games since the very first edition in 2010. Aged between 18-25, they are the role models at these Games, teaching young athletes the values of Olympism at the YOG, and also providing support for them. These young leaders include athletes, students and National Olympic Committee staff.

We speak to Singapore’s very own Young Change Maker in Buenos Aires, national fencer and Youth Olympian Rania Herlina Rahardja, about how she is inspiring the young athletes at these Games.

1. What is your role as a YCM at the YOG? Could you share more about what you do here?

I support the Singapore team officials and encourage our athletes to participate in the cultural and educational activities. These activities promote values such as fair play and anti-doping through creative and engaging exercises (eg. games quizzes and prize draws). We’d like them to look beyond mere sporting achievement and focus on the Olympic values of friendship, respect and excellence.

2. Why did you want to take up the role of YCM?

After graduating from university last year, I suffered a major shoulder dislocation and it was a huge setback in my sporting aspirations. I had just started my full-time job and people around me told me to quit the sport and focus on my career instead. But I really wanted to continue to be involved in sports and this opportunity came up. SNOC was looking for YCM candidates and Fencing Singapore asked me if I was interested. I said yes, they nominated me, and here I am.

3. What is your aim as YCM? What message do you want to deliver to the athletes here?

I really hope our athletes immerse themselves fully in this experience – it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in the YOG, and I hope they take as much away from the competition field and also outside e.g. making friends and trying all the activities offered!

4. How has the Youth Olympic Games made an impact in your life?

As an athlete in 2010, I qualified through the host country wild card just two years after picking up fencing and only with a year of competition experience. It was only after the Games that I actually understood what being part of YOG meant. Whenever I meet other former Youth Olympians, I was able to connect with them through this shared experience. It motivated me to continue being involved.

Being in the YOG now and meeting the 81 other YCMs from all over the world have inspired me greatly. Their unique background and diverse experiences ranging from decorated athletes e.g. Olympic Gold medallist in Rio, local sport celebrities to the most passionate sports enthusiasts have generated a very inclusive spirit and positive vibe in the games village, making this experience very enjoyable.

5. What are you most impressed by what you’re seeing so far in Buenos Aires?

At the start, we were promised that being part of YOG would be a “life-changing experience”. I would have taken it with a pinch of salt then, but as I’m currently two weeks into the Games with one more to go, I can already say that no one single day is the same. I’m learning and experiencing different things each day.

Returning to the YOG in a different capacity eight years later has also made me appreciate all the effort in the planning of the Games

6. What have you made of Team Singapore’s performance at these Games so far?

I believe that our athletes have learnt a lot through this experience while enjoying themselves.

For instance, badminton player Jaslyn sprained her ankle in her early matches but she continued to put up very brave fights to finish 4th in both the individual and team matches, narrowly missing out on bronze medals.

Our fencer Matthew battled a fever, our swimmer Ching Hwee broke her own personal record just a month after setting one and triathlete Emma powered to finish 11th overall and best in Asia starting from being one of the last competitors at the start of her race.

I’m super proud of our athletes and am so glad to be a part of this journey with them.

Singaporeans in action on day 8

Men’s High Jump Stage 2 – Kampton Kam (SGP) cleared 2.07m and finished 7th out of 16 overall.