Taking athletics beyond performance | 10.08.2011
Raul Rebane, winner of the 2010 European
Athletics Innovation Award.
Raul Rebane of Estonia was the overall winner of the 2010 European Athletics Innovation Awards for his project, entitled “The Social Role of an Athlete”.
Selected from 30 entries from 16 countries, Rabane’s paper describes the integration of Olympic Champion Gerd Kanter’s image with his sporting development to create a positive, highly visible role model for young people and the general public.
Rabane, who lists his profession as Communications Consultant and has been a broadcast commentator at 11 Olympic Games since 1980, leads Kanter’s support group of coaches, scientists, medical personnel, media support and others known as Team75plus (www.team75plus) reflecting Kanter’s goal of 75 metres in the discus.
Congratulations on winning the 2010 European Athletics Innovation Award. Can you tell us what inspired you?
I have been very aware of our lifestyle changes and the fact that people in most of Europe are less physically active than 30 or 40 years ago. In my view, athletics and sport are needed more than ever as a way to keep us healthy, to keep us human. Role models are important, especially for young people, so I wanted to see if we could develop the phenomenon of a top athlete beyond just performance in order to better communicate positive values about fitness and help change peoples’ lives for the better.
What is the most important lesson you have learned through the project?
Some people say that the limits of human performance have been exceeded and that the only chance for improvement is through doping. But what I have seen is that much more is possible using legal and fair techniques than most of us realise. Scientific advances, better coaching and utilisation of the soft sciences such as sport psychology all offer paths to performances beyond what has been achieved so far in any athletic event. I believe that there are big developments still ahead of us in all the athletics disciplines.
What is next for the project?
Well, now we have a very interesting challenge. Gerd has achieved almost everything an athlete can. But he is still highly motivated and we want to see how long he can continue to excel and inspire people. We have set the Olympic Games in London as a target for performance and we have several objectives for developing the culture of sport and fitness in Estonia. What we do will surely be applicable with other top athletes and in other countries.
And beyond that? Do you have any other projects in mind?
I am very interested in the whole question of talent in sport. Gerd is Olympic champion but he was never recognised as a talent when he was young. How many great performers do we lose this way? The next project is to develop tests and a structure for a better way to identify hidden talent. This will be important for both raising performance levels and creating new role models in the future.