Eric Mitchell is Team Canada’s Young Ambassador for the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games. Follow his journey on the YOG BLOG. 

March 10, 2016

The Olympic flame may be extinguished in the Youth Olympic City of Lillehammer, but here in Calgary it still burns strongly within our Team Canada athletes.

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“It was a great opportunity to show the younger kids that anyone can be great through sport as long as they’re determined. It was also great to see how much of an inspiration we can be to the younger generation and how we can be role models.” – Laura Vargas, Lillehammer 2014, Skeleton

Taylor Rooke, Katherine Hogan, Martha Niziolek, Laura Vargas and Gillian Gowling assembled at the Delta West Academy with the purpose of sharing the spirit of the Youth Olympic Games and the Olympic Values of Excellence, Friendship & Respect. Helping to capture the moment was 2012 Innsbruck Young Olympian Nathaniel Mah, who was also able to share his own story while showing off his photography skills. I was very lucky to help moderate the conversation while sharing some of my favorite memories as well.

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Back in Lillehammer Gillian was able to participate in the IOC Youth Session, a chance to speak directly with IOC President Thomas Bach.  She asked Bach how she could keep the YOG alive after returning home; he encouraged her to share her story with students and that’s exactly what she did. Gillian was asked about what it was like to compete at the YOG and she explained “how hard it was physically to compete with the best young athletes in the world, but also how rewarding it was to push her boundaries to the limit.”  It was so rewarding to watch the young students ask the biathlete what motivated her to train so hard every day.

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The three bobsledders and lone skeleton athlete wowed the students when they spoke about how thrilling and terrifying it was to go down the track for the first time.  Besides the memories they had from the race itself, the young ladies recounted the friendships they had made along the way and all of the incredible memories they made at the YOG.  A grade three student couldn’t contain her excitement, and blurted out ‘HOW COOL, I want to make friends all over the world!”

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Finally it was extremely rewarding for me to talk about the importance of acceptance within sport.  The students were very receptive to #OneTeam program’s message of inclusivity, and it was very inspiring for me to have so many YOG athletes help me tell my story of why acceptance and respect are so important.  The Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship & Respect sure seemed to resonate with students at the Delta West Academy, Team Canada can be proud of our Young Olympians who are helping to spread the Spirit of the Youth Olympic Games right here in their hometown.

February 21, 2016

Hard to believe that the show is coming to an end here in Lillehammer. It seems like just yesterday our incredible team marched into the opening ceremonies and were stunned by some amazing fireworks.

Good Night Lillehammer ✌#iLoveYOG

A photo posted by Eric D Mitchell (@ericjumper) on

Once the Games started rolling, everyone really started to take in the power of the Olympic moment while competing, learning and sharing. All of our young Olympians represented Canada with such passion and poise! Every single moment of these Games, I felt proud to put on my big red team parka and walk through the village or cheer at the venues.

Outside the field of play, it has been very powerful for me to witness all the work being done by young people. These Games have been created by, with and for young people and the YOG show what can be accomplished when the next generation is empowered.

I have had the chance to speak with many dignitaries and people of power here in Norway about what the future looks like. There was always a consensus that it was the next generation’s responsibility to stay passionate and be involved.

I cannot thank the COC and IOC enough for this truly unforgettable opportunity to watch the values of Olympism light up within these amazing young athletes. I had the chance to talk with our curlers after their gold medal match, and Mary mentioned that “I will never be able to top this year” which was so reflective for me, because I had the same sentiment after competing in Vancouver.

But I know this is only the beginning and these incredible young people are destined for greatness, because they truly embody the values that we are looking for in our communities and around the world.

February 20, 2016

Cheering was the name of the game today!

We got the entire men’s ice hockey team out on the sliding track to cheer on Parker Reid as he competed in men’s monobob! The event was the first of its kind in Olympic history.

Parker Reid CAN competes in the Men’s Monobob competition at the Lillehammer Olympic Sliding Centre during the Winter Youth Olympic Games, Lillehammer, Norway, 20 February 2016. Photo: Jed Leicester for YIS/IOC Handout image supplied by YIS/IOC

Parker Reid CAN competes in the Men’s Monobob competition at the Lillehammer Olympic Sliding Centre during the Winter Youth Olympic Games, Lillehammer, Norway, 20 February 2016. Photo: Jed Leicester for YIS/IOC Handout image supplied by YIS/IOC

The experience was made extra special thanks to the awesome students at St. Andrew’s Junior High School. We cheered on Parker using the flags that the students signed back in early February.

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‘Try a Sport’ is an important initative of the YOG and most venues offer fans the opportunity to test their hand at a given sport. The sliding centre was no exception! Led by Brooke, our gold medallist in luge, the hockey team and I took turns racing down the natural track. For bragging rights, naturally.

In the evening the cross country athletes, Annika Richardson and Levi Nadlersmith and myself headed to the climbing stadium to spend some time on the wall. It was a neat experience to watch athletes from all over the world step outside their comfort zone and try a new sport.

In other exciting news, our ice dancers claimed Youth Olympic bronze medals in the mixed NOC figure skating event in Hamar, Norway.

Fruzsina Medgyesi HUN, Yumeng Gao CHN, Bowen Li CHN, Marjorie Lajoie CAN, Zachary Lagha CAN and Deniss Vasiljevs LAT (left to right) pose with the Bronze Medals they won in the Figure Skating Mixed NOC Team event at Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre during the Winter Youth Olympic Games, Lillehammer, Norway, 20 February 2016. Photo: Thomas Lovelock for YIS/IOC Handout image supplied by YIS/IOC

Fruzsina Medgyesi HUN, Yumeng Gao CHN, Bowen Li CHN, Marjorie Lajoie CAN, Zachary Lagha CAN and Deniss Vasiljevs LAT (left to right) pose with the Bronze Medals they won in the Figure Skating Mixed NOC Team event at Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre during the Winter Youth Olympic Games, Lillehammer, Norway, 20 February 2016. Photo: Thomas Lovelock for YIS/IOC Handout image supplied by YIS/IOC

Competing alongside skaters from Latvia, Hungary and China, Marjorie Lajoie and partner Zachary Lagha finished third in their free program, helping ‘Team Discovery’ to an overall third place finish.

There’s still medals on the table tomorrow! Our men’s ice hockey team plays for gold, Tyler Tardi is in the mixed NOC doubles curling semifinal and our biathletes take to the course in their final race of the Games – the mixed relay.

February 19, 2016

We are down to our final days here in Lillehammer, but there’s still a few sports left to compete!

Yesterday three of our figure skaters and one snowboarder teamed up with the gold medal curling team for a quick lesson. Let’s just say that we experienced firsthand how difficult curling is and how talented Mary, Karlee, Tyler and Sterling really are! It was a fun match; many Team Canada parents got to cheer on (or laugh with) both our beginner and expert curlers.

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The timing was perfect because after our friendly game, we moved into Kristins Hall to form a huge red cheering section, as we watched our hockey players put on a clinic against the host Norwegians.

Best fans in the house for @TeamCanada #iLoveYOG

A photo posted by Eric D Mitchell (@ericjumper) on

We all felt lots of Canadian pride with so many flags waving – even though we were outnumbered in the stands quite considerably, we were not holding back our applause!

Today I was lucky enough to watch Baily McDonald compete in the ladies’ slopestyle snowboarding event and our two alpine guys, Justin Alkier and Ryan Moffat, race down the slalom course.

Being up on the ski hill really brings back so many memories for me… I felt like I was competing myself! There is nothing better than cheering for Canada. With only a couple of days left, I will make sure we pack the stands. Team Canada is going to go out with a bang!

February 17, 2016

This morning I had some gold medal curling for breakfast and it was soooo sweet!

This entire trip, I have been having fun cheering for our curlers so it was super rewarding to see them bring the gold! I have learned so much about the game, especially on how to cheer, from all the great parents!!

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After watching our team win gold, we were so inspired! Audrey, Zoe, Reece and Matt all went out to the rink and tried some curling. Turns out it’s harder than it looks! =)

feeling inspired after watching Canada win gold in curling with @ericjumper, @reecehowden & @zchore #iLoveYOG #teamcanada

A video posted by Audrey Shieh ☻ (@audreyyshieh) on

After a couple of ends, we moved to a different sheet of ice and played some hockey, which couldn’t have been better.

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In the afternoon, all of the International Federations put on team building events for their athletes, which was a great chance to meet people from other countries. From what I have heard, Alexis Gravel, one of our hockey goalies, was the best actor in the bunch as the IIHF lead athletes through activities promoting the Player Safety Program and Player Integrity Program.

February 16, 2016

Today was really special for me because I got to talk about an initiative really close to my heart. I was invited by the Crown Prince of Norway Haakon Magnus to talk about LGBTQ inclusivity within the sporting community with athletes, coaches and officials here at the YOG.

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Specifically, I had the chance to share info about the One Team  initiative with the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).

When I was on the national team I had the opportunity to travel around the world with my team and we were often on the road together for months at a time. These guys were like my brothers and we all had the same goals in mind, to be the best. However what my teammates didn’t know at the time was that I was gay.

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This made it easy to throw around homophobic slurs when we were training and competing, and these comments stuck to me. This was not an inclusive environment and it made it very hard to compete at my best, I can only imagine how many young kids are pushed out of sport because they do not feel comfortable being themselves.

Dignity in sport for me is respecting everyone for who they are, and letting them be truly themselves. It does not matter what country we come from, what languages we speak, or who we choose to love because we all compete for the love of sport.

I feel very lucky to share my story here at the YOG with such great company, and I want to thank everyone who came up and shared their stories with me afterwards!!

February 15, 2016

I spent most of today at the Learn & Share area in Håkons Hall.

Throughout the YOG, the various activities are refreshed and replaced so that athletes get the most out of the education and cultural experience that is Learn & Share. These new activities were the perfect opportunity to Team Canada to test them out! Bobsledder Parker Reid had a chance to test his piloting skills at the mental training workshop. He was surprised and pleased that these were skills he could apply to his concentration – focus that is needed to pilot a bobsled!

We had an interesting guest here in the afternoon. Myself and some delegates from the Canadian team were joined by the Canadian Ambassador to Norway!

The Ambassador participated in numerous activities with us – we experienced the Learn & Share centre, attended the Canada/Finland hockey game (Canada won 5-1) and toured the Village. We both shared many of the same views on the role sport that can play to bring different cultures together. And to top it off, he showed off his ski jumping chops – not bad at all!

In between all of the Learn & Share activities, I didn’t forget to cheer on all of our athletes, two of whom won GOLD!

Congratulations to Brooke Apshkrum and Reece Howden! Gold in women’s singles luge and men’s ski cross!

Canada strikes gold today!! #iLoveYOG #lillehammer2016 #TeamCanada

A photo posted by Eric D Mitchell (@ericjumper) on

February 14, 2016

Day three of the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games started off with a bang for Team Canada!

Congrats on winning bronze @reid_watts !!! We were all cheering for you! #iLoveYOG #teamcanada

A photo posted by Eric D Mitchell (@ericjumper) on

I was joined by COC President Tricia Smith this morning to watch the men’s singles luge event. Reid Watts, a promising young Canadian slider, was competing. After walking up and down the track and exploring the Lillehammer Olympic Sliding Centre, we settled on corner 13 to catch the action. It was a thrill to watch all of the young athletes race by. I can see why luge is known as ‘the fastest sport on ice’!

Reid Watts CAN competes during the Men's Luge Singles at the Lillehammer Olympic Sliding Center during the Winter Youth Olympic Games, Lillehammer Norway, 14 February 2016. Photo: Thomas Lovelock for YIS/IOC Handout image supplied by YIS/IOC

Reid Watts CAN competes during the Men’s Luge Singles at the Lillehammer Olympic Sliding Center during the Winter Youth Olympic Games, Lillehammer Norway, 14 February 2016. Photo: Thomas Lovelock for YIS/IOC Handout image supplied by YIS/IOC

Reid was in fifth place after his first run, but expectations were high and we were feeling a bit nervous about his prospects for the final heat. We shouldn’t have been so worried! Reid ended up putting down the second fastest final run time – fast enough to clock his final time at 1:35.994 and win the bronze medal! It was so great to see Reid’s parents celebrating his victory from the stands.

Canadians cheer on Reid Watts.

The Watts’ family and other Team Canada fans cheer on Reid Watts at the Lillehammer Olympic Sliding Centre.

On another interesting note, President Thomas Bach was on hand to present the men’s singles luge medals. Congratulations, Reid! Team Canada is so proud of you.

Men's singles luge medallists; The medalists: AUT Bastian Schulte (gold), GER Paul-Lukas Heider and CAN Reid Watts (bronze).

Men’s singles luge medallists; The medalists: AUT Bastian Schulte (gold), GER Paul-Lukas Heider and CAN Reid Watts (bronze). Photo: Josef Benoni Ness Tveit / Lillehammer 2016

In the evening I was treated to a special tour of the Sjoggfest cultural festival with Thomas Bach. Two-time Olympic medallist Yuna Kim was also in attendance.

Chatting with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach at Sjoggfest.

Chatting with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach at Sjoggfest.

Together we got to check out the amazing ice sculptures that surround Sjogg Park. The ice sculptures were all carved by young Norwegians! It’s amazing to see how connected the Norwegian people are to the Olympic spirit and to these 2016 Youth Olympic Games.

February 13, 2016

The Olympic flame is burning and competition is well under way here in Lillehammer!

There’s been so much build up over the last few days (and months) and it was amazing to finally see some of our young athletes take to the rink, course or track! My day started with a great trip up to Hafjell, the alpine skiing venue, to watch Ali Nullmeyer and Amelia Smart charge down the super-G course.

Amelia Smart -CAN Ladies’ Super G at Hafjell Olympic Slope during the Winter Youth Olympic Games, Lillehammer Norway, 13 February 2016. Photo: Simon Bruty Handout image supplied by YIS/IOC

Amelia Smart -CAN Ladies’ Super G at Hafjell Olympic Slope during the Winter Youth Olympic Games, Lillehammer Norway, 13 February 2016. Photo: Simon Bruty Handout image supplied by YIS/IOC

It was my first time up to the Hafjell venue and I hope it’s not my last – the view is incredible!

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Isabelle Charest, Eric Mitchell and Team Canada enjoying the Hafjell Olympic Slope.

On to the next event! I found myself in good company cheering on our curling team as they beat Team GB in the round robin. Canadian Olympic Committee President Tricia Smith, Isabelle Charest and I had a blast watching from the stands as Team Canada pulled out a very close win.

I spent the latter part of my afternoon on the edge of my seat as I watched our men’s ice hockey team play their tournament opener against Russia. Team Canada got off to a rough start, down 2-0 after the first period.

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They turned it around in periods two and three, but were eventually bested 4-3. Despite the final score, the guys showed tremendous heart and the stands were packed – over 1,700 in attendance.

Lastly the coaches sat down for their first IOC led Coach’s Corner, where they discussed connecting athletes to the importance of motoric patterns and muscle memory.

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Although we are all here to Compete, Learn & Share, today we enjoyed the competition!

February 12, 2016

Please bear with me for this blog, because there are simply no words to sum up tonight’s experience.

This evening, I had the ultimate privilege of marching into my second ever Olympic Opening Ceremony. Team Canada, led by our amazing Chef de Mission Isabelle Charest, did our country proud. Before we began to march, Isabelle delivered an emotional story that resonated with our entire team.
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Walking alongside so many excited athletes filled me with emotions that I hadn’t felt in six years. All the pride I felt when I walked into the Opening Ceremony in Vancouver came rushing back when I entered the Lysgårdsbakkene Ski Jumping Arena.

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Walking alongside so many excited athletes filled me with emotions that I hadn’t felt in six years. All the pride I felt when I walked into the Opening Ceremony in Vancouver came rushing back when I entered the Lysgårdsbakkene Ski Jumping Arena.

Once again the Olympic Games have inspired me, and I will use this inspiration to make sure Team Canada walks away from this experience with the same kind of passion for the Olympic values as I have.

February 11, 2016

What a fun day!

Today my fellow Young Ambassadors and I had the privilege to spend the morning with IOC President Thomas Bach. We had a fascinating conversation about steps that the IOC is taking to address the current refugee crisis. We also had a chance to take a great selfie together! =)

In the afternoon, it was all about welcoming the athletes to Lillehammer. Our team was well represented and sure had a lot of fun! We are ready for the Opening Ceremonies tomorrow!!

Take a look at Ben and Matt dancing it up!

@teamcanada is getting the party started here at the @youtholympics #iLoveYOG #Lillehammer2016 #TeamCanada #EquipeCanada

A video posted by Eric D Mitchell (@ericjumper) on

February 10, 2016

Team Canada is finally arriving and rapidly filling up the Youth Olympic Village!

Today we had almost 60 red jackets arriving and it was so exciting to see their reactions as they moved into their rooms. The Canadian Youth Olympic Team are the fourth largest delegation here at the YOG behind Norway, Russia and the USA. The maple leaf is certainly well representing here in Lillehammer.

In between the many team arrivals, I had the opportunity to spend time with two awesome freestyle skiing athletes, Evan Marineau and Mackenzie Wilson. We spent all morning going through the Learn & Share activity park.

It was really cool to see both of them, along with their coach Jeremy, use the Get Set app, a virtual way to learn about injury prevention. Of course, we also made time to have some fun on the super tramp!

Can’t wait for the welcome session tomorrow!

February 9, 2016

We’ve arrived!

February 7 was such a special day for me – I packed my bags and headed to the airport to catch my flight to Oslo. It was a flashback to 6 years ago to the day when I boarded my flight to Vancouver for my first Olympic experience!

This time I am traveling with our amazing medical team, don’t we look good all dressed up in our Hudson’s Bay team kit and adidas shoes!

Can't hardly believe it, we are in #Lillehammer2016 !!! #iLoveYOG #TeamCanada

A video posted by Eric D Mitchell (@ericjumper) on

We arrived in the Youth Olympic Village yesterday and since then I have had the opportunity to welcome many of our team members. Their excitement for the YOG is contagious! We have all jumped into the Learn & Share activities and are making the most of the YOG. It’s fun!

February 7, 2016

What an evening with the hockey guys!

Yesterday in Calgary the Canadian Youth Olympic Hockey Team assembled before heading across the Atlantic for Norway. I got a chance to talk with them about what to expect in Lillehammer and they were so excited! Especially when they watched a clip from YOG ambassador Mats Zuccarello.

On a less serious note the team mimed their way though some of the other Youth Olympic sports like curling, snowboarding and biathlon. It was great fun to see everyone getting ready to rock the YOG.

The Canadian Youth Olympic Games hockey team taking part in team building exercises on February 6 in Calgary.

The Canadian Youth Olympic Games hockey team taking part in team building exercises on February 6 in Calgary.

After spending some time with these guy I know Canada will be represented well!

Now its my turn to get on the plane! Norway bound!

February 1, 2016

It all starts now!  Months of training and qualifications have finally culminated today for the 54 young athletes who have been named to the 2016 Canadian Youth Olympic Team.

These incredible talents will be an inspiration to young people from coast to coast to coast as they compete, learn & share in Lillehammer 2016.

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I was invited to speak to a group of young student athletes at St. Andrews Jr High School in Toronto about the lessons that I have learned in sport. Memories flooded back as I spoke about the tools I used to excel in sport, the friendships I made along the way and ultimately the respect I gained for those who are different.

With the smiles still on the faces of these student I presented three Canadian flags where everyone was able to write good luck messages to the entire YOG team!

Eric Mitchell poses with grades 5, 6, 7 and 8 at St. Andrew's Junior High School.

Eric Mitchell, grades 5, 6, 7 and 8 at St. Andrew’s Junior High School.

The road to Lillehammer 2016 continues!  Check back on Friday when we will see how the Men’s Ice Hockey Team plan to Rock the YOG!

Follow Eric on Twitter and Instagram.