International Athletes Shine Even After the Spotlight Turns Off

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Chloe Kim, of the United States, jumps during the women's halfpipe finals at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Chloe Kim, of the United States, jumps during the women's halfpipe finals at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

International Athletes Shine Even After the Spotlight Turns Off

While the 2018 Winter Olympic Games have come to a close, the American athletes who gave their all on the international stage will continue to shine and share their international experiences with communities in the United States and abroad.

One of the ways that athletes continue to share their values is through the U.S. Department of State’s Sports Envoy program. For example, earlier this year Chloe Kim, the 17-year-old snowboarding phenomenon from California, was a Sports Envoy before she was a gold medalist and the talk of American dinner tables. She served as a Sport Envoy in the Republic of Korea, where she used her platform as an elite athlete to open dialogues on perseverance, industriousness, and tolerance. She led a snowboarding clinic for local Korean youth, spoke to students in Seoul, and encouraged young Korean women to follow their dreams.

Chloe Kim, of the United States, celebrates winning gold in the women's halfpipe finals at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The Sports Envoy program, as well as international competitions like the Olympics and Paralympics, benefits both Americans and international communities in ways many of us never see. American athletes spread messages on the values that come from sports – resilience, inclusion, and healthy competition – while gaining valuable cultural perspectives that they can bring back home. The program’s impact on the athletes assists them in their future endeavors, while leaving international audiences better informed about the United States.

Sports Envoy and Olympic Ice Skater Evan Lysacek leads a clinic on ice in Belarus. (State Department photo)

Former Sports Envoy Evan Lysacek, a gold medalist figure skater during the 2010 Olympics, participated as a Sports Envoy on a program to Sweden and Belarus in 2012. Shortly after laying down his skates, he joined the real estate world in New York City. A few months later, he began consulting in the fashion industry, working alongside Vera Wang. His insights as a world-class athlete, and his cultural immersion as a Sports Envoy during his program in Sweden and Belarus, provided insights to think globally. And now he has increased the competitiveness of an iconic American fashion brand in the global marketplace. Like Evan, many former Sports Envoys go on to become leaders in the private sector, helping American enterprises compete at a global level. Their experiences on the international stage give them a real edge.

Sports Envoy Andy Yohe (left) in Kazakhstan following his Olympic victory in the 2014 Paralympic Games. (State Department photo)

Additionally, Sports Envoys have impacts at the local level, creating a ripple effect that leaves a positive impact not only on foreign communities, but their home communities long after their exchange program ends. For residents of Bettendorf, Iowa, they see this impact through athletes like Andy Yohe, a three-time Paralympic medalist in sled hockey who participated as a Sports Envoy to Kazakhstan in 2014. He returned home after the Sochi Olympics to become a real estate agent in his hometown. These days, he helps Americans make important decisions about their lives and also shares his international experiences with his community, as a local community leader.

The benefits of international competition and the Sport Envoy program outlast the spotlight of the individual events, leaving a positive footprint on communities around the world.

About the Author: Carlos Rodriguez-Cruz y Celis is an intern in the Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Office of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Mediuim.com.

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