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Youth Olympics: Kendall can't shake the Olympics

by Suzanne McFadden, newsroom.co.nz 3 Oct 2018 01:10 BST 3 October 2018
Barbara Kendall (NZL) competes in the RS:X class race, 2008 Olympic Games, Qingdao, China © Clive Mason / Getty / NZ Olympic Committee

Barbara Kendall has never been one to sit still.

New Zealand’s ‘Rainbow Girl’- with her haul of Olympic gold, silver and bronze - may have ended her boardsailing career a decade ago, but the 51-year-old is still dashing around the globe, switching between her many different hats.

Last week, Kendall was in Japan, for the World Surfing Games, where she was re-elected as vice president of the International Surfing Association. She’s played an integral part in ensuring surfing makes its sporting debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

This week, she’s in Argentina, leading the New Zealand team into the Youth Olympic Games.

Although her 12-year stint on the International Olympic Committee has come to an end, she’s still chair of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) Athletes' Commission until the end of the year, and remains on the IOC commission for Women in Sport.

Far removed from the sporting realm, Kendall has also established herself as a ‘champion’ in the business world – running workshops in leadership training and development for some of the country’s big corporates. Forever curious, and intrigued by technology, she’s also on the board of an artificial intelligence company about to list on the New Zealand Stock Exchange.

Despite her myriad roles pulling her in different directions, Kendall reckons she doesn’t travel quite as often as she once did. And that’s been a blessing for her family, she says, as a mum to two teenage daughters, Samantha and Aimee.

That role has probably given her the ideal background for her job as chef de mission of the New Zealand Youth Olympic team in Buenos Aires.

This will be Kendall’s fifth Youth Olympics. She’s been to every edition of the Games, summer and winter, since the first in Singapore in 2010.

In the past, she’s been an “athlete role model” – the four-time world champion there to answer any questions young athletes had about her Olympic journey.

“I love the Youth Olympics, because you get a totally different vibe from the young athletes - they’re really spirited and eager just to play sport,” she says. “The whole ego and money side of it hasn’t filtered into their consciousness, so they’re really raw and genuine. It’s really enjoyable watching the sport, because it’s just pure.”

Kendall moves into the athletes’ village Monday, ready to set up the New Zealand headquarters before the 61-athlete team arrives later this week. The opening ceremony is this weekend.

“There’s not such a big lead-in to these games as there is with an Olympic Games, so you’ve got to hit the ground running,” she says. “A lot of the people going to these games are new to the Olympics – some have never been to a multi-sport event before.”

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