Interview with Konstantin Schad and Hannah Kearney, new Chair and Vice-Chair of the FIS Athletes' Commission

The members of the FIS Athletes’ Commission 2017-2019 were elected by the participating athletes at the 2017 FIS World Championships and the newly-elected Commission recently held its first meeting.

FIS sat down with the new Chair, German snowboard cross athlete Konstantin Schad, and Vice-Chair, American freestyle skier, Hannah Kearney, to talk about their roles.

Konstantin what motivated you to chair the Commission and what are your goals in this role?

I've always been socially motivated, not necessarily pursuing my own agenda, but always trying to help out everybody. After I got involved with FIS four years ago, learning how things are done in this big organisation and being able to communicate it back to my fellow athletes, I figured that now would be time to more actively make an impact on the athletes' position within FIS. I think that we did some great work in the last couple of years already and I hope I can be a worthy successor to the previous chairladies Jessica Lindell Vikarby and Kikkan Randall. 

Hannah, you are one of the new members on the Commission. What motivated you to become Vice-Chair?

As the only retired athlete in the room during the conversation about the role of the Vice-Chair, I thought I could help Konstantin and all of the other athletes who will be busy in the coming months as they prepare for the Olympic Winter Games. I am happy to take on more responsibility so that they can focus on their athletic goals.

What do you foresee being your main areas of focus during the next two years?

Konstantin: The topics of clean sport and anti-doping have always been something we all feel very strongly about and we think that as an Athletes’ Commission, we can tribute something very beneficial in the next two years. In particular, we are working on having some educational material for the athletes in place.

Hannah: As Konstantin said, clean sport and anti-doping will always be a priority of the Athletes’ Commission. Also, I think that snow sports are in a really interesting spot at the moment as we compete for attention in a broad entertainment options and a changing media landscape. I hope that the Athletes’ Commission can work together to come up with a strategic vision for the unique disciplines within FIS.

What are some of the challenges you are facing?

Konstantin: Although I wouldn't call it a challenge, with the Olympics around the corner, all our aspirations and the connected schedules will definitely make it harder to keep in touch until next February. But everybody on the Commission is super motivated and with Hannah being retired we have a great Vice-Chair to take on some responsibility.

One of the challenges remains to develop and strengthen pathways for communicating important information to all FIS athletes, to keep them informed and collect feedback to continue to improve our sports.

Hannah, as a new member on the Athletes’ Commission, what was your impression from the recent FIS meetings in Portoroz?

It was fascinating to see what goes on in order for us athletes to compete at the level we do. I met some really interesting people and most enjoyed the sub-committee meetings that address the smallest details of the sport. 

Konstantin, on behalf of former Chair Jessica Lindell-Vikarby, you attended the recent FIS Council meeting. What was your impression?

It was a great experience for me to see what’s ahead. Former chair Jessica will remain as Athletes’ Commission representative in the FIS Council until the Congress 2018 at which point the election of the FIS Council will take place and I hope to be elected by the Congress as the new representative. I am glad that Jessica has done such a great job already, so everybody was very welcoming towards the athletes' representative when I joined the Council Members for dinner the night before the meeting. Obviously things got a lot more serious in the meeting the next day, but it was clear to see that everybody within FIS is working together professionally, from the working groups all the way up to the Council. In the end it's never easy to lead an organisation that big and I am grateful, that we as the athletes have a well-respected voice all the way up to the highest body. 

Beside your work in the Athletes’ Commission what are you doing this summer to be prepared for the Olympic season?

I am on a very tight schedule right now recovering from an ugly back surgery in February and having to come back in an even shorter period than usual. In order to be ready for the first snowboard cross World Cup of the season in early September in South America, I am basically running back and forth between the gym and the glaciers. But the Olympics are so exciting and every athlete's dream. This gives me the extra drive to make everything happen!

Hannah, you retired from competitive skiing in 2015. When did you start preparing for life after sport?

I did not prepare much for life after sport until after the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, because I was so focused on my athletic career. I wish I had started preparing sooner. I am now a full time university student pursuing a marketing degree, which is helping me transition to life after sport. 

What kind of message would you like to pass on to your fellow athletes as their representative within FIS?

Hannah: I am always available to listen to their concerns and I will do my best to represent their interests within the FIS organisation so that they can focus first and foremost on the things they have the power to control, like their training. 

Konstantin: Everybody is going a great job with the best interest at heart and many stakeholders have to be accommodated when decisions are made. It's always good to push for your goals, because that makes us outstanding athletes, but understanding the complex coherences is also an athlete's duty. I will try to facilitate the flow of information between the FIS organisation and the athletes, and vice-versa, so we can keep fresh ideas coming and all work together to benefit our sports.