OSLO – Norwegian ice hockey player Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers and snowboard slopestyler Silje Norendal join Lindsey Vonn (USA, Alpine skiing) and Kjetil Jansrud (NOR, Alpine skiing) as ambassadors of the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, to inspire athletes and young fans to get active and be part of the second edition taking place in February 2016.
The announcement took place in Oslo, which will host the half-pipe competitions during the Games, at the Wang Sports Academy. Zuccarello and Norendal were joined by fellow ambassador Jansrud to give local pupils the chance to ask questions about the Youth Olympic Games.
Zuccarello has been described as a magician on the ice, and has a wealth of Olympic experience from both Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 that he can offer to the young athletes.
“We have to get kids active and understanding how fun sport can be,” Zuccarello said in his first interview after suffering an injury earlier this year.
“I have been so lucky in my career on both sides of the Atlantic, and I hope to share some of my experiences with the YOG fans and athletes. I am very proud to see how the Norwegians have got behind this event; the Olympic spirit will have a great impact not only in Lillehammer, but across the nation.
“The Olympics are more fun and friendly. Team sport is all about winning so it is competitive and they’re rivalries but [off the ice] everybody is friendly. That’s what I like about the Olympics.”
Olympian and three-time X Games champion Silje Norendal is deemed a pioneer of snowboard slopestyle – the high-octane discipline which appeared on the Olympic programme at the inaugural Winter YOG in Innsbruck 2012 followed by the Sochi 2014 Winter Games – and will offer her extensive advice and experience to young athletes and YOG fans.
Norendal commented: “I can’t wait to get started as an Ambassador for the Youth Olympic Games in my home nation and tell the world about this amazing event. I love my sport and was so happy to see it appear at Innsbruck 2012 (the first edition of the Winter YOG). I know that Lillehammer will be even more awesome!”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) chooses Ambassadors for each edition of the Youth Olympic Games. Sporting legends such as Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Yao Ming, Yuna Kim and Yelena Isinbayeva, to name a few, have supported this campaign, which is shared with the 50 million fans the IOC has on its social media channels.
Like in Innsbruck 2012, ice hockey will be represented with two men’s and two women’s events. Male and female athletes born in 2000 and 2001 will be eligible to participate. There will be five teams each in the men’s and women’s ice hockey tournaments.
Besides the team tournaments, an individual Skills Challenge for women and men will be held. The 32 participants will be selected from a global qualification program based on a series of individual skill tests designed by the IIHF. After the domestic competitions the Global Skills Challenge Summit will take place in Vierumaki, Finland, 5-10 July 2015. The hopefuls will compete in six skills competitions to determine the 15 best male and the 15 best female athletes who will be qualified for the Skills Challenge at the 2016 Youth Olympic Winter Games along with one male and one female participant from the host country Norway.