Olympism is not only a dream for athletes on the competition field. Despite the business, it still seems to inspire official vocations. The IOC announced it at the end of the week: no less than 17 candidates will be vying for their peers’ votes on the sidelines of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. Two seats on the IOC Athletes’ Commission are at stake.
Ten women and seven men, representing 17 National Olympic Committees, six sports and all five continents, have been accepted by the IOC Executive Board to compete for votes. This is a new record for a Winter Games, proving that the Olympic body’s membership is more attractive than ever.
Note that two athletes on the list have not participated in the Olympic Winter Games yet. They will have to qualify and then be confirmed by their National Olympic Committees, as only Olympians can apply for membership of the Athletes’ Commission.
Voting will open on January 27th. It will close on February 16th and will take place in the various athletes’ villages of the Beijing Games. The results will be announced before the end of the Games.
The two athletes elected will replace two big names in winter sports, Canadian ice-hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, whose mandate on the Athletes’ Commission ends at the end of the Beijing Games, and Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen, whose seat has been vacant since his resignation in 2016.
As a reminder, the Commission includes a maximum of 23 members (12 elected directly by the athletes during the Games, plus 11 appointed). Their office term lasts eight years. Four members are elected during the Summer Games, two during the Winter Games.
The appointed members are chosen by the IOC President, after consultation with the Chair of the Athletes’ Commission, to ensure a fair balance between regions, genders and sports.
The Class of 2022, the largest in history, features a surprising mix of Olympic medallists and surprise guests.
At the top of the list, at least in terms of achievements and notoriety, is a Frenchman. Martin Fourcade (pictured above), the most successful French athlete at the Winter Games, won five gold medals in biathlon between the Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games. He also won two other silver medals, in Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014.
At 33, the Catalan has put away his skis and rifle, without leaving the sports movement. Despite his background in winter sports, he chairs the athletes’ commission of the Paris 2024 OCOG. He was flag bearer for the French delegation at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Games. In September 2019, the French Olympic Committee (CNOSF) preferred him to pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie to apply for the IOC Athletes’ Commission.
In terms of his record and reputation, Martin Fourcade has no real competitor among the candidates accepted by the IOC. But the mysteries of the vote, and the very strange rules of the IOC (candidates are not allowed to campaign), sometimes lead to surprising results. The French can testify: two of their greatest champions, judoka David Douillet and tennis player Amélie Mauresmo, were defeated in such an election.
“I am very honoured to have been proposed by the CNOSF as a candidate for the IOC Athletes’ Commission in order to carry the voice of athletes within the Olympic movement and work with them to promote clean and environmentally friendly sport,” commented Martin Fourcade in a CNOSF press release. The former biathlete will say no more, under penalty of being sanctioned by the IOC. The lobbying work will be done behind the scenes.
For the rest, the list of candidates for the two IOC member seats reveals several strong profiles. Ireen Wüst, for example. At the 2006 Turin Games, the Dutchwoman became the youngest Olympic champion in the history of the Netherlands when, at the age of 19, she won the gold medal in the 3,000 m long track speed skating event. Four years later, in Vancouver 2010, she did it again, but this time in the 1,500m. At the 2014 Sochi Games, Ireen Wüst won five medals, two of them gold. She completed her haul with another Olympic title, in the 1,500m, at the 2018 PyeongChang Games.
Another client is Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter. At 32, she became Olympic slalom champion at the PyeongChang 2018 Games. She is the only candidate with an alpine skiing background, which could help her cause.
Finally, two other Olympic medallists will be applying for the seat at the Beijing Games: Eva Samková of the Czech Republic, Olympic snowboard cross champion at the 2014 Sochi Games (then bronze medallist at Pyeongchang 2018), and Florence Schelling of Switzerland, goalkeeper for the ice hockey team which won bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games.