Life as an Athlete and Sports Management Student
The life of an Olympian is exciting: competing in the sport you love and traveling the world. But, compared to a whole career, the time you spend as a professional athlete is not that long. So athletes in their thirties usually start looking for what comes next. The good news is that there are plenty of careers in the sports world for former athletes who still want to be part of the action, like former Olympic sprinter Léa Sprunger, who is now a businesswoman, speaker, influencer and Master’s student in sports management. at the International Academy of Sports Science and Technology (AISTS) in Lausanne, Switzerland. We sat down to chat with the 31-year-old about her sporting career, her studies and how she combines the two….
What are your main sporting achievements?
My name is Lea Sprunger. I was a professional athlete for 15 years, twice European champion, once outdoors in Berlin 2018 – my most important achievement – and 400 meters at the European Indoor Athletics Championships. I participated in three Olympic Games and reached two world finals. The best finish I had was fourth at the World Championships. In Switzerland, I have many Swiss records in different events, including the 400m hurdles, 200m and 400m, and I also contributed as captain of the 4x100m team. I retired after the Tokyo Olympics and here I am back in Lausanne, pursuing my passion through continuing education in sport.
Now I am studying in AISTS and I was lucky to get the scholarship from AISTS and Swiss Olympic. On top of that, I work at the Athletissima Diamond League, which keeps me busy by combining work and study simultaneously.
It’s a big family at Athletissima and it’s a good way for me to stay in the track family by working with them. From the start of the season, I will be more in contact with the key people who can keep my feet in the sport and I will have the opportunity to get involved in side events by working with the younger generation. It keeps me alive because I realized how much sport offers so much in terms of emotions and understanding who you are. It is the greatest pleasure for me to be part of athletics. I became the woman I am today and I help the younger generation have that opportunity like I did.
If you could describe the training you receive at AISTS, what would you say?
It is complete what we are studying. It’s not just a specific aspect of the sport. We cross many fields, such as technology, marketing, medicine, law. After one year of study, we have an insight into sports management, which opens many doors for us in the sports industry. Although we have regular teachers, I also like the fact that we have sports experts at AISTS to share their knowledge. This is where we learn the most.
We had several wonderful people. I particularly liked a representative of a Swiss brand that sponsors skiing. There were many facts and examples from which we could glimpse the effect and the whole procedure of the company. Also, we had the opportunity to visit the Omega factory and the IOC, at the heart of the sport.
I think one of the strengths of AISTS is its connections, located in Lausanne – the Olympic capital, and in many sporting events. The networks we build are powerful and rich in opportunity. The education we receive is dynamic; I appreciate all the lectures and every hour of what we have studied. I think only AISTS can offer this.
Why is sport important for society? What can it do for societies and individuals?
I think sport is all about emotions and energy when you connect with a group, yourself, your family and others. Even if your team loses, the feeling you get is the same. Indeed, there are downsides to sports. However, I think sport is essential for societies and individuals because it can bring a lot of positive values and identification to an athlete, which can be useful for everyone.
Are there any highlights that you have experienced on the course?
All the time we had outside of class was fantastic. For example, Omega, the IOC and the World Archery Excellence Centre. Even though I know Omega by heart as they are a great supporter and sponsor, we had an inspirational speech from CEO, Raynald Aeschlimann, explaining the mentality and work ethic at the factory, the vision of the brand itself and to the Olympic Movement as an official timekeeper at the Olympic Games. The visit to the IOC was brilliant. As we have two Olympians in the class [Léa Sprunger herself and Olympic gymnast Elisa Hämmerle], we were allowed to sign the Olympic wall. The AISTS allowed me to make a historical memory to graduate that we are officially Olympians. We graduated from the hands of Thomas Bach [President of the International Olympic Committee].
Article written in collaboration with AISTS.