On the spot
Shelley Watts was born in 1987 in the small coastal town of Laurieton, north of Sydney, Australia. As a boxer, Shelley competed in the women’s lightweight division at the 2014 Commonwealth Games where she won the gold medal. She participated in Rio 2016 and is currently preparing both for Tokyo 2020 and for a law career.
Why do you think it is important to dedicate one day a year to the celebration of Olympism? What does Olympic Day mean to you?
Olympism is celebrated all around the world. While the Olympic Games is very unique and only comes once every 4 years and only in a specific place, the Olympic Day allows to celebrate each year the spirit and values disseminated during the Games in every country, city or village.
It is important to get involved in spreading the Olympic message as the Olympic Games are special. Being involved in the Olympic Day celebrations, Olympians can easily reach out to children. The week leading into Olympic Day, I am visiting as many schools as I can to talk about the values of the Olympics and those I believe in: “believe in yourself, work hard and be proud to represent your country. ”
You are involved in the celebrations of the Olympic Day in your city or your region. What kind of message would you like to spread to the children, their parents, their teachers and their coaches?
I tell them: “Believe in yourself”. The Olympic Games shows that anyone is allowed to dream about participating. My main goal is really to tell them that working hard and believing in yourself makes your dreams come true.
How does one continue to embody and carry the Olympic spirit and the sport values as an elite athlete and not only during the Games or during the Olympic day?
The beauty of the Olympics Games is that “Once you have been an Olympian, you are always an Olympian.” It doesn’t matter if it is while you are competing or after the Olympic Games. You are and remain an Olympian. You are becoming part of a very special and unique club and I think that either as an athlete or in a business career, in your own career – I am currently studying law –, it is the same values that make you successful: believing in yourself, working hard, having good communication skills and good time management to achieve your goals. I try to portray these values in my daily life.
It is the same for Olympians and for Olympic Cities. Olympic Cities have to work so hard to get the Olympic Games so they have to be so proud of being part of the Olympic history.
Why do you think it is important for the local population to be able to identify with heroes like Olympic athletes?
I think it is important because people can see that things are possible wherever you are from. My hometown has less than 2000 people living there. A lot of people know who I am, they come to me, they have seen me on TV and they may think: “One day, I will do the same thing”. The Olympic Day is an opportunity to see as many young people as I could just to give them inspiration. It is an opportunity for me to say: “You can achieve what you want when you believe in yourself and work very hard”.
How are you involved with your city/region in promoting sport and healthy lifestyles, beyond Olympic Day?
I love being able to bring boxing to the community and teach people the fun and technical skills involved in correct punches and correct movement. I run community boxing programs, as well as try to visit schools as much as possible to run boxing lessons.
How do you think Olympic Cities and Olympians can work closer together?
It would be excellent to get potential opportunities for Olympians to come back to the City(ies) where they came for the Games, to make documentaries, e.g. with the Olympic channel, a TV show, etc. It would be amazing if you had someone like for instance Dawn Fraser from Australia going back to the pool(s) where she won her gold medals. It would contribute to the Olympic image of the City and its community. I would love to one day be able to go back to Rio and be able to know that I achieved something amazing there.
Olympians should get as much exposure in the community as possible. Everybody knows the Olympic Games, the Rings are the most recognisable symbol in the world. People love the opportunity to meet Olympians. Anytime you can get an Olympian within the community, it is a positive experience.
Olympic Cities are unique in the sense that they own a treasure to be valorised: their Olympic legacy. How can Olympians participate in the activation of Olympic Cities’ legacy?
Giving Olympians the opportunity to go back to “their” Olympic City(ies), although a bit challenging, may allow changing the message on Olympic Games. It could show how amazing where the sports performances achieved by athletes at that place instead of focusing on the difficult debate about the costs of the Games, which is often also part of the “legacy”. Olympic Cities have got so many world records, medal moments, memories they share with the athletes. I have so many amazing memories representing my country in Rio, the Olympic city from 2016. Athletes remain connected with the Olympic City where they participated in the Games.